As Microsoft prepares to begin selling Surface 2 tablets later this month, it is warning of "limited availability" for the new-and-improved tablet-PC hybrids.
Microsoft's pre-order stock of the 64-GB Surface 2, the Windows RT version that runs on ARM chips, and the 256- and 512-GB models of Surface 2 Pro "are close to selling out" through the online Microsoft Store, Brian Hall, general manager for Surface, said last week in a blog post.
Hall said Microsoft is "pretty happy about this" but did not indicate whether the short supply was the result of increased customer demand for Surface tablets. In the blog comments, several posters suggested that Microsoft, which took a $900 million charge on unsold Surface inventory in July, made fewer Surface 2 tablets this time around.
Customers who miss out on the pre-order can get Surface 2 tablets from their nearest Microsoft retail store when they hit store shelves on Oct. 22. And, through an unpopular channel program Microsoft introduced in June, businesses can buy Surface in larger quantities from a cadre of 10 large account resellers.
Microsoft still isn't letting its broader channel sell Surface 2 tablets, so partners aren't jumping up and down with excitement about the improvements.
In terms of usability, Surface hasn't shown that it's that much better than an ultrabook, Joseph Awe, president of TechBldrs, an Exton, Pa.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN.
"The power is better, the functionality is richer and I can have a variety of screen size," Awe said in an email.
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights and Strategy, Microsoft's second-generation Surface tablets offer "major improvements" in terms of battery life, responsiveness, displays and the inclusion of Windows 8.1.
However, none of these areas were responsible for the sluggish Surface RT sales Microsoft has seen thus far, Moorhead told CRN.
"The fundamental problem with Surface RT is a lack of applications and services consumers desire right now. Surface 2 doesn't solve any of those challenges," Moorhead said in an email.
While there are more than 100,000 Surface-optimized apps on the Windows Store, Microsoft wants developers to build more.
Microsoft unveiled Surface 2 and Surface Pro last month at an event in New York City. The former is based on Windows 8.1 RT and can't run traditional Windows apps, while the latter runs Windows 8.1 and features Intel's new Haswell chip, which promises better performance and battery life.
PUBLISHED OCT. 7, 2013