Microsoft’s initial distribution plan for their first foray into building a Windows device, the Surface RT and Pro, was to feature it at their brick and mortar Microsoft Store retail locations and online through the stores electronic equivalent.
They even added 34 holiday pop up stores to bring the total locations the Surface RT would be available to 69 (based on current store listing at MicrosoftStore.com).
Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, described the distribution channel for Surface RT as modest in recent comments which by the way got misconstrued as meaning modest sales of Surface RT but then that is an entirely different news story that has already runs its course.
So anyway – back to this story.
According to reports surfacing across the web, which started with Paul Thurrott revealing this on last weeks Windows Weekly PODCAST, Microsoft will expand those channels to make Surface RT and Surface Pro widely available.
According to Paul:
Microsoft originally planned to expand Surface availability with the launch of the second Surface model, Surface with Windows 8 Pro, in late January 2013. But with both Windows 8 and Surface off to a slow start, the firm moved quickly to adapt and will allow numerous retailing partners outside the US to begin selling Surface with Windows RT starting this week.
In very late January, Staples and Best Buy will join the Microsoft Store in selling both the Surface with Windows RT and Surface with Windows 8 Pro. These devices will also be sold internationally outside of Microsoft’s own stores.
I am very glad to see this as one of the major complaints I have read since Surface RT was made available on 26 October of this year was the limited physical locations to check out a Surface RT in person. This is a very understandable complaint as with any major purchase you do your research and for many of us that includes actually checking out the physical product – especially a version 1.0 of a product.
With this expansion many more people will get to walk into a physical store and see the Surface devices and really get an idea about them and how they feel, etc.
Although it is not mentioned in Paul’s article that they are being considered I hope this expansion does not include exclusively online electronic retailers that are not capable of having a physical presence to show the device to prospective customers. That in and of itself would continue to add to the frustration of not being able to physically check out the device.
It is also much more likely that one of the added brick and mortar locations will make it more feasible for folks to get in and see the product first hand. Then they have the choice to purchase it right then and there or go home to place the order online.
The expansion of physical availability makes a lot of sense and I hope the new stores will make sure to really feature Surface RT and Surface Pro in their location.
I plan to check out our local Staples and Best Buy stores to see for myself when this comes to the US in late January 2013.