Preston Gralla

Microsoft CEO Ballmer says Surface Windows RT tablet sales are modest, hopes for boost from Intel Windows 8 version

November 12, 2012 9:57 AM EST

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that sales of Windows RT-based Surface tablet are only modest, and hopes for a sales boost from the more powerful Intel-powered Surface tablet when it's released next year.

Ballmer told the French newspaper Le Parisien that Surface sales "are starting modestly," according to the Dow Jones newswire. He said that modest sales were due to the tablet only being available online and in a handful of Microsoft stores. He didn't provide sales figures.

He added that he expected the more powerful Intel-powered version of the Surface, which will be a Windows 8 tablet rather than a Windows RT tablet, will help with sales when it's introduced three months after the RT version's October 26 launch.

The RT-based Surface tablet was sold out for about a week online, leading to some speculation that it had booming sales. But clearly, that isn't the case. Ballmer said that the initial supply shortage of Surface tablets is "a good sign," presumably because it means there's pent-up demand for it. He claims that Microsoft will boost the number of Surface tablets available for sale.

Ballmer's statements make me think that Microsoft knew that the Surface was not going to have bang-up sales when it was released, and so purposely held down the numbers of tablets it produced. That way, the company could create the illusion of big demand, even while consumers weren't flocking to buy the Surface.

Given the Surface tablet's starting price of $499, I don't expect it to be a big seller -- and neither does IDC, which warns that:

"Price points are critical in tablets, and Microsoft and its partners will have a tough time winning a share of consumer wallet with price points starting at $500."

So modest sales of the Surface to date are no surprise...and I'd expect only modest sales for quite some time.