Microsoft to switch gears and start selling Surface from more outlets

Credit: squirrel83 via Flickr

Update: Microsoft has officially confirmed the expansion of Surface sales beyond Microsoft stores starting this week. 

Earlier: Retailers are already selling Surface tablets in Europe and the big U.S. electronics chains like Best Buy and Staples are expected to join them in January, according to a couple of new reports.

So far, Surface tablets have only been available in Microsoft stores, including about 30 temporary "pop-up" stores, or from Microsoft's online store. Since that adds up to about 60 physical locations for people to see and touch the device, this distribution strategy has been taking some of the blame for what's thought to be a slow sales start for the tablet.

A couple of analyst groups have estimated that sales for the Surface will be under 1 million this quarter . Microsoft hasn't revealed specific numbers.

In Europe, one store in France is already selling the Surface, with cover, for €15 less than Microsoft is selling it online. Fans of ZDnet's Mary Jo Foley pointed her to that retailer.

Additional outlets are expected to begin popping up internationally this week, according to Paul Thurrott, who first reported on the development. Microsoft did not reply to a request for comment about its Surface retail strategy.

The change of plans appears to be an effort to boost sales and take advantage of the holiday shopping season.

In unveiling the Surface, Microsoft made a big push to describe its quality hardware, spending a lot of time describing the click of the kickstand. But new hardware and new software from a company that has never offered its own tablet means shoppers want to touch it before committing. For people without a nearby store, buying online is just too big of a leap.

Both the Surface RT and Pro are expected to appear on store shelves in the U.S. but not until January, just missing the big shopping season.

Combined with reports of muted enthusiasm for Windows 8 laptops and convertibles, this is turning out to be a rough launch for Microsoft.

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