Microsoft Surface tablet arrives at Best Buy today

Casting a wider net: Until now, the Windows RT device was sold only through Microsoft's 31 retail stores and 34 holiday pop-up stores in the U.S.

Microsoft's Surface RT tablet will be available through Best Buy.
Microsoft's Surface RT tablet will be available through Best Buy. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

The Surface RT tablet makes its official debut at Best Buy today.

Microsoft's Surface will be available for sale at Best Buy's Web site today starting at 2 p.m. PT. The device will then make it way to Best Buy retail outlets and select Best Buy Mobile stores this Sunday, December 16.

Staples also has revealed that it will start carrying the tablet as soon as today.

The move is part of Microsoft's strategy to expand the reach of Surface beyond its own stores. Company officials said that the expansion was initially targeted for early 2013. But retailer interest in Surface led Microsoft to bump up that time frame.

A company spokesperson told ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley that the company is not commenting on which countries or stores will get Surface tablets , beyond the U.S. and Australia.

Just how well Surface is doing remains a mystery.

In mid-November, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Surface sales were off to a modest start . But that was just a couple of weeks after the tablet's debut on October 26. Since then, the company has been mum as to how Surface is faring.

Analyst forecasts differ.

IHS analyst Rhoda Alexander believes Microsoft could sell as many 1.3 million Surface tablets this quarter. Analysts at brokerage firm Detwiler Fenton expect sales to ring in at less than 1 million.

Regardless of the tablet's current sales, Microsoft needs to ramp up the availability of Surface to a wider audience.

Before today, the device was sold only through Microsoft's 31 retail stores and 34 holiday pop-up stores in the U.S. But the locations of those stores make them inaccessible to a large number of consumers. Surface is also sold through Microsoft's online stores in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, and Hong Kong.

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