Microsoft warned potential buyers last week that its second-generation Surface tablets were close to selling out, at least at its own online Microsoft Store. On Monday, the company's prediction appears to be coming true, at least in some small part.
Not to worry, however. So far, it appears only the more expensive versions of the next-gen Surface tablets are affected, and the delays are minimal - just a few days to a week. It's also not clear whether the same devices being sold in the US at Best Buy and other retailers are also back-ordered. And if you really want a Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2, try visiting a brick-and-mortar Microsoft Store on launch day, Microsoft has said - they may have them in stock.
In any event, Microsoft may be able to make the "sold-out" claim to win some positive PR - if it chooses to.
Microsoft launched the next-generation Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro at an event in New York City on Sept 23, pairing them with a number of new covers and other accessories designed to enhance the functionality of the basic Surface experience.
One preliminary benchmark test indicated that the Surface Pro 2 provided a marginal 9 percent improvement over the original Surface Pro; in our brief time with the new Type Cover, we felt that it was a step back from the previous version.
Microsoft has made it clear, however, that it hopes the Surface Pro 2 could eventually replace both the desktop and the mobile PC with its innovative Power Cover and a forthcoming docking station, due early next year.
Microsoft has said that the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets will be available on Oct. 22. (For some items, Microsoft has said that delivery will take place after Oct. 22.) Nevertheless, Microsoft representatives told PCWorld that if the order page is showing a week's delay, those products are back-ordered, including some next-gen Surface tablets and accessories. That appears to be the case.
A quick rundown of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 availability in the US, as of Monday:
$449 Surface 2 (32GB): Ships by Oct. 25
$549 Surface 2 (64GB): Ships by Oct. 21
$899 Surface Pro 2 (64GB): Ships by Oct. 25
$999 Surface Pro 2 (128GB): Ships by Oct. 25
$1,299 Surface Pro 2 (256GB): Ships by Oct. 29
$1,799 Surface Pro 2 (512GB): Ships by Oct. 29
Using Microsoft's logic, then, the Surface Pro 2 256GB and 512GB versions are sold out.
Microsoft said last week the Type Cover 2 and the Touch Cover 2 were also sold out; the Microsoft Store ship dates reflect that, with a shipping date of Oct. 29 for both. The Surface Wireless Adapter is still scheduled to ship on Oct. 21.
So far, it's not clear whether or not retailers like Best Buy have backordered the high-end Surface Pro 2 tablets as well; the site is not currently providing a ship date for the new Surface tablets. Moreover, Best Buy currently does not offer a ship-to-store option for the next-gen Surface tablets.
Theoretically, Microsoft could use the availability scenario to make the claim that its new Surface 2 and Pro 2 tablets are "sold out," a trigger phrase that usually provokes additional interest. (That's a problem that Microsoft didn't have with the first-gen Surface, which was discounted after it couldn't sell enough of them.)
But, without knowing the available supply (or demand) or Microsoft's new tablets, it's a dodgy proposition. The best metrics for Microsoft's success will probably be analyst data or Microsoft's own numbers, if it discloses them.