According to the market research firm, IDC, Microsoft has placed an order for 3 million Surface tablets, which goes on sale this October. That’s a pretty hefty number for an uncertain and unproven tablet. What’s even more surprising is that Microsoft plans to sell a majority of these through its own retail stores and a few select online retailers. There are a few problems with this concept though, for one, Microsoft doesn’t have enough Windows stores to sell that many devices; and two, while an online strategy is important, without having any devices in brick and mortar stores Fry’s and Best Buy, you lose the important walk-by traffic, which gives people the experience of holding the tablet and playing with it, showing them why it’s better, different or more important than an iPad, Nexus 7 or any other Android tablet.
As for the rumored $199 price tag that has everyone all hot and bothered, Bob O’Donnell, an IDC analyst, says he is very doubtful that Microsoft would sell its tablet at that price for a variety of reasons, but the most important one, is to not upset its faithful Windows partners. If Microsoft were to sell a tablet at such a price, it would effectively kill any interest from third parties, as they’d make no profit by trying to compete and it could cause bad blood between the OEM’s and Microsoft. Instead, O’Donnell believes that Microsoft could package in some free services or applications to make the tablet more appealing, but expect the tablet to cost $500 or more.
While the Surface has garnered a lot of interest since it was first shown off, and rightfully so, it’s going to have a tough launch come October, not only will it be going up against the almighty iPad with its unprecedented Retina display (the iPad has been king of the tablet space since it launched in 2010), the Surface is also going to be going up against a smaller, cheaper iPad, assuming rumors are correct. This is a tablet that consumers have been asking for, for nearly two years. If Apple were to release a smaller iPad, with a cheaper price tag around the same time frame, I’m afraid that Microsoft’s tablet, no matter how impressive, different or feature packed, will be over looked by the majority of consumers and the folks in Redmond will be stuck with a lot of unwanted inventory, much like RIM and their PlayBook.
Source of IDC report: CNET