Despite tepid reviews of Microsoft's new Surface Pro Windows 8 tablet last week, the company says it has seen solid demand since it went on sale Saturday in the United States. The company says the Surface line is just getting started.
Many stores reported that they sold out of the initial stock of the 128GB 10.6-inch Surface Pro tablet, which comes with a stylus and can be bought with a $100 attachable keyboard. The tablet starts at $899 with 64GB of storage; the 128GB version begins at $999. Microsoft stores and Staples reportedly sold out of the first batch of tablets. Microsoft would not disclose the number of tablets sold or the number in the initial stock batch.
"We are pleased that the demand for the Surface Pro is so great. Our focus is to get ordered Surface units delivered to our customers as quickly as possible," Microsoft said in a statement today.
According to analyst estimates, Microsoft only sold a million Surface RT tablets -- the first version of the Surface tablet -- during the fourth quarter of 2012. In comparison, Apple sold 3 million iPads in just its first weekend. Microsoft hasn't confirmed the number of units sold. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described the sales to the French newspaper Le Parisien as "modest," however, Microsoft later clarified that he was referring to the company's approach in ramping up supply and distribution of Surface with Windows RT.
"While our approach has been modest, Steve notes the reception to the device has been 'fantastic' which is why he also stated that 'soon, it will be available in more countries and in more stores,'" Microsoft clarified in a statement.
Still, despite criticism of Surface Pro's battery life and thickness, Microsoft says there is a lot of energy around the product on social media and from consumers, especially from professionals.
"We are focused on the professional segment and the road warrior," Panos Panay, the General Manager of Microsoft Surface, told ABC News in a phone interview. "The Pro is targeted at the professional road warrior who's moving and traveling and cannot compromise performance whatsoever."
Panay said that the Surface Pro should be viewed more as a laptop than a tablet and the Surface RT as more of a tablet. The Surface RT, unlike the Pro, retails for $499, has a lower-power processor and runs Windows RT -- a version of Windows 8 that cannot run older Windows applications.
"The focus really was to bring to bear a great PC that can be used for everything you want it to as a professional and when you want to transform it to a tablet you have that," he said. "As opposed to the Surface RT, which came out where we wanted to create a great tablet experience, where if you wanted to do a little more or do work, you could."
But the question becomes, why didn't Microsoft just create a laptop? "Our partners are doing a very good job with laptops right now," Mike Angiulo, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President for Windows Planning, told ABC News. "We started thinking at the beginning at Windows 8, what is something that someone isn't going to be able to come out with? The notebook form factor is alive and well, we are just working with partners on those."
The Surface tablets are the first personal computers made by the Redmond, Wash.-based company, at least in the last few decades. Microsoft has invested a considerable amount in hardware manufacturing and research and development facilities for Surface. Ballmer has said there will be other products like the Surface, but has been vague about the details. Rumors reported on technology sites have said that Microsoft plans to release three more Surface products this year, one of which is a Surface Book with a larger screen than the current tablets.
When asked again about laptops and the Surface brand, Panay wouldn't comment directly on future product plans but said that Microsoft considers this a marathon, not a sprint.
"It will take some time for the product [the Surface Pro] to adopt. This is a good marathon for us, we are pretty excited about the short term and the long term," Panay said in the interview. "When you ask if you are making a laptop or a notebook, we have a pretty good selection of things we have been working on. It's pretty exciting."
- Technology & Electronics