Supply pinch dogs Microsoft's Surface tablets

Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 are chronically in short supply. Is this because the new tablets are flying off the shelves or just not reaching the shelves?

Surface Pro 2: a dearth of the tablets has impacted sales.
Surface Pro 2: a dearth of the tablets has impacted sales. Brooke Crothers

A dearth of Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 tablets has persisted during the holiday shopping season, though that situation may finally be easing a bit.

Are the new Surface tablets flying off the shelves or just not reaching the shelves? That's not clear because Microsoft doesn't provide sales numbers, but limited supply -- not excessive popularity -- of the tablets appears to be a factor.

The Windows 8.1-based Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 models have been largely "out of stock" at Microsoft Stores -- both the physical stores and online stores. This situation has persisted during much of the holiday season, spanning November and December, according to Microsoft Store sales representatives contacted by CNET.

Take this weekend, for example. The online Microsoft Store, as of Saturday morning, shows only the 512GB model of the Surface Pro 2 available for $1,799. (Update: the online store later on Saturday showed the 256GB model also available.)

The Windows RT-based Surface 2 is also out of stock at the online store.

Checks by CNET at physical stores on the East and West Coast also indicate limited availability. For example, Microsoft stores in Los Angeles and Boston had only the 256GB Surface Pro 2, which goes for $1,299, as of Saturday morning.

Microsoft said it's working to address the supply issue. "We're actively working with our manufacturing teams and retail partners to get Surface in customers' hands as soon as possible," a Microsoft spokesperson told CNET in a statement.

There are some signs that the supply may be easing, though. More Surface Pro 2s are arriving at Best Buy stores this weekend across the country.

Best Buy store representatives contacted by CNET in the Los Angeles area indicated that, until this weekend, supply had slowed to barely a trickle in the last couple of weeks -- indicating it was less of an excessive popularity issue and more of a supply problem.

"The public response to Surface has been exciting to see," the Microsoft spokesperson said.

But Microsoft is undoubtedly wary of flooding the market with too many units. Back in July, Microsoft announced a $900M Surface RT "inventory adjustment" charge due to a lack of demand for the first-generation Surface RT tablet.

Updated at 11:15 p.m. PT: adds updated Surface Pro availability at Microsoft online store.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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