Microsoft Surface Pro sell-out flap: Is the tablet really that popular?

It's apparent that Microsoft's Surface Pro sold out fast upon release, but is this because of under-stock or over-demand?

When the US inventory of the 128GB version of Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet dried up within hours after going on sale Saturday, there were plenty of disappointed shoppers. But there were also many skeptics who charged that Microsoft artificially created the sell-out by under-stocking the US$1000 units at its online store, Best Buy and Staples.

By the way, there's no shortage of the $900, 64GB versions of the tablet.

Microsoft's official statement is that the shortage was caused by an underestimate in demand, although there were plenty of voices on Reddit who found stores with either no 128GB units or a paltry number of them for sale.

And perhaps Chris Cook of the small consumer electronics blog Product Reviews put it most succinctly: "While Microsoft would have you believe that they are working on the lack of supply problems, we're more inclined to say that this was all part of their plan," Cook wrote.

Why hold back?

Others are discounting the artificial sell-out theory. "People build a product based on what they think can sell," Stephen Baker, a consumer electronics analyst with the NPD Group in New York City said in an interview.

"I really don't think any retailer would purposely not buy Surface Pros so Microsoft could say it was going to sell out," he added. "There's no way that would ever happen."

If retailers didn't get a lot of 128GB Surface Pros, it was because Microsoft didn't have a lot of product or because of the lackluster sales numbers for Surface RT--Microsoft's first branded tablet--retailers ordered few of the Pro, Baker said.

Supply manipulation accusations are common when a product sells out, Baker said. "There's always those kinds of rumors," Baker said. "It flies in the face of logic, if a company wants to make money."

"The goal is to sell stuff," he added, "not to pretend you sold what you didn't have."

Companies and retailers maintain inventories based on what they think will sell, Baker added. "Everybody expected that [the Surface Pro] would not be a huge seller," he said. "It's expensive and the previous product didn't do very well so anyone wouldn't have built a lot of them."

"Did they sell out because retailers only had two or three per store?" he asked. "Maybe, but I don't see anything in the previous volumes of the previous product that would indicate this was going to be a huge seller."

Pro is the stronger Surface

Still, other than the controversial sell-out claim, signs indicate that the Surface Pro may have stronger legs than the Surface RT has in the market. For example, a study released by Forrester Research found that a Microsoft tablet was a most desired item for many tech workers.

Of course, Microsoft could settle the sell-out controversy by releasing sales numbers for Surface Pro. If the company sold a million units, then all the conspiracy theorists would go away. If it sold 6000 units, then maybe the skeptics might have a point about supply manipulation.

That's not likely to happen, though, since Microsoft hasn't even released the official numbers for Surface RT sales.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsofttabletshardware systemsshoppingSurface

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John P. Mello Jr.

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?