Microsoft sells just 1 million Surface tablets in Q4 2012

By Peter Gothard
15 Jan 2013 View Comments
Surface with Windows RT

Microsoft sold just one million Surface tablets in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to UBS analyst Brent Thill. That's 19 million fewer than the number of iPads sold by Apple in the same quarter, and half the number Thill originally predicted Microsoft would shift over the period.

As well as intense competition from the iPad, Thill also identified Microsoft's decision to limit distribution to its own stores as a key reason for the device's lacklustre sales.

Further reading

Looking at the unfolding demise of HMV, along with Jessops and Comet in recent weeks, it's not difficult to appreciate the innate problems in trying to shift goods on the high street from so few venues, when every store is currently fighting for scraps on the table.

However, what Thill does not dwell upon is the fact that the ARM-based Windows RT operating system is just as unknown a quantity now as it was at release.

Computing discovered when the machine had barely even launched that several of Microsoft's closest enterprise partners had no intention of adopting the RT platform in their firms, while the news has been full of high-profile OEM manufacturing partners pulling out of RT support early on, after disappointing sales figures were hinted at.

Application coders, meanwhile, admitted that the task of converting standard Windows 8 apps to work within the RT framework was often too complex to be worth the effort.

It's not even clear that Microsoft itself has any faith in the RT. Computing's extensive hands-on time with the machine has demonstrated a worrying number of still-present legacy features from the Win32 environment upon which it was based.

Either Microsoft has badly bungled the launch of a machine it genuinely thought could get its foot in the door of the consumer and budget enterprise tablet spaces, or it simply put Surface RT out as a promotional tool to whet appetites for the release of the Windows 8 and Intel processor-equipped Surface Pro.

Thill believes that Surface Pro will prove stronger with the enterprise sector. Acquisition should be easier in this area, with bulk buying from Microsoft certain to be the preferred option, and the Windows 8 environment should enjoy the full benefit of cross-compatibility that the isolated RT environment was never going to be capable of.

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