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Ballmer says Microsoft Surface sales off to 'modest' start

Microsoft CEO says Surface tablet sales are modest while touting the coming availability of a high-end Intel-based version.

CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrating the Surface tablet at a recent Microsoft conference.
CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrating the Surface tablet at a recent Microsoft conference.

Sales of Microsoft's new tablet are modest despite the fact that one model was sold out online for more than a week.

Speaking to French daily Le Parisien, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said sales "are starting modestly."

Ballmer claimed that sales were constrained by the limits of the sales channel, according to the report. The Surface tablet is only available at the Microsoft Store online and, in the U.S., at a few dozen brick-and-mortar stores.

But demand for the tablet through Microsoft's sales channels was apparently high enough to trigger a shortage of the $499 model online for more than a week, when it was listed as "out of stock".

Ballmer did not disclose sales numbers to the French newspaper.

The Microsoft CEO did mention that the Intel-based high-end version of the tablet is on the way.

The pricier 0.53-inch thick, two-pound version packs some pretty high-performance silicon: a 3rd Gen Intel "Ivy Bridge" Core i5 Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of memory, and solid-state drives up to 128GB.

It will also sport a high-resolution 1,920x1,080 10.6-inch display.

Pricing for the Intel-based Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro -- expected early next year -- has not been announced but Microsoft has said in the past that it would be priced in line with ultrabooks that have similar configurations.

Update: On Monday, Microsoft offered the following statement.

"When asked about Surface, 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, which has only been available via our online store and Microsoft retail stores in the U.S and Canada," Microsoft said in a statement sent to CNET.

"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 said.

Updated on November 12 at 2:30 p.m. PST: adds Microsoft statement.

[Via Neowin]