How Modest Are Microsoft’s Surface Sales?

Speaking to the French daily Le Parisien, Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) chief executive Steve Ballmer said that sales of the company’s new Surface tablet are “starting modestly,” but he declined to give to give an exact sales figure for the 1/2-pound tablet, which was introduced on October 26 to compete with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad.

However, there has been some confusion in the industry regarding what Ballmer meant by “starting modestly.”

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The online technology publication SlashGear reported on Monday that Ballmer had “conceded” that sales of the tablet had “started modestly.”

Microsoft however took fault at the publication’s interpretation of Ballmer’s comments, and SlashGear wrote a second article that amended the previous report slightly. It included a follow-up statement from the company that said, “Steve’s use of the term “modest” was in relation to the company’s approach in ramping up supply and distribution of Surface with Windows RT.”

The reception of the tablet has been “fantastic,” Microsoft added.

But “fantastic” is hard to measure without sales figures.

An article published by CNET places Surface sales in a somewhat more defined context. Despite its modest start, the publication stated, demand for the tablet has been strong enough that the $499 model of the Surface was listed as “out of stock” for more than a week on Microsoft’s online store. In his interview, which was published on Saturday, Ballmer attributed the tablet’s modest start to its limited availability; so far, the tablet is only sold online and at several Microsoft stores in the United States.

“It’s a good sign,” said Ballmer regarding supply shortages. Microsoft “will fix this problem quickly,” he added.

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