Microsoft has increased production of its Surface tablet, with mind to releasing the hardware in retail stores later this week.
Since its global launch on 26 October 2012 - the same day as Windows 8 - Surface has only been sold directly through Microsoft, whether by mail order or via pop-up concessions in key retail areas.
Microsoft has given no firm details of exactly how many more Surfaces are being produced in this new push. Panos Panay, general manager of the Surface project, simply said, "We've increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience and purchase Surface."
Panay also commented that the public reaction to Surface "has been exciting to see", but sales figures have still not been revealed.
Microsoft has also so far refused to list any of the retailers who will be taking Surface, though stationer Staples has apparently already confirmed with Reuters that it plans to stock the device.
The decision to put the machine in customers' faces in shops could be seen as response to demand, but just as easily as a reworking of Surface's retail model in an attempt to shift units before the arrival of the Surface Pro early next year.
The Pro, which sports an Intel Core i5 processor as opposed to Surface's ARM chip, will run the full version of Windows 8 - unlike Surface's Windows RT - and have access to Microsoft's full range of Windows 8 apps, as well as a large amount of Win32-based legacy applications from Windows 7 and earlier.
With the Pro due to arrive in January, stepped-up production could conceivably represent a final push by Microsoft to clear the factory floor in order to clear the way for a fresh marketing push on the more enterprise-friendly Pro machine.
Microsoft's initial sales projection for this quarter at Surface's launch was 4 million, but the company is now expecting to sell only 2 million.
What do you think? Is Surface RT a dead duck? Is Microsoft clearing it out of the way to focus on the more feature-heavy Surface Pro, or is there room in the tablet market for both these machines? Let us know in the comments section below.
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