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Only 1M Surface tablets sold last quarter -- analyst

A UBS analyst cuts his fourth-quarter Surface sales estimate in half, saying the product faced tough competition from the iPad and a lack of general availability.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Surface RT.
Surface RT. Microsoft

Microsoft's Surface tablet may not have rung in much holiday cheer last quarter, at least according to one analyst.

Microsoft sold just 1 million Surface RT tablets in the fourth quarter, projects UBS analyst Brent Thill, down from a prior forecast of 2 million. In an investors note out today, the analyst cited two reasons for his dour projection in a single sentence:

"Surface RT is a consumer device with [fourth-quarter] sales suffering from the difficult iPad compare and narrow distribution."

Early last month, IHS iSuppli analyst Rhoda Alexander told CNET that she expected Surface sales of 1.3 million for the quarter, adding that "I would be surprised to see it much above that."

Last July, CEO Steve Ballmer said that Microsoft's goal was to sell a few million Surface tablets in the coming year. But the company has been mum about recent sales of Surface, which debuted at the end of October.

Thill has higher expectations for Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet, which is slated to hit the market later this month.

Unlike its RT counterpart, Surface Pro will be a full Windows 8 tablet capable of running all desktop applications and offering more power and features.

Calling the Surface Pro "more promising," Thill sees it as an alternative to the iPad among enterprises users. For Microsoft's fiscal 2013, which ends this June, the analyst estimates Surface sales of 2.5 million units. For fiscal 2014, he's eyeing sales as high 8 million.

Microsoft declined CNET's request for comment on Thill's forecast. The company will release its earnings report for last quarter on January 24.