The doubters are out in force (myself included) with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) imminent Surface tablet launch, particularly in light of the pricing strategy that the software giant is pursuing. By starting entry-level pricing at the same price point as Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad, Mr. Softy is asking for trouble.
Skeptics be damned, because there's already one good sign for Surface's prospects: the base $499 model pre-orders have already sold out. While it's impossible to know how many units that could entail, it's certainly a positive indication of demand for Microsoft's new tablet. New pre-orders placed through Microsoft's online store are quoted shipping times of "within 3 weeks."
Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Nexus 7 that launched this summer saw similar interest out the gate, with models being sold out at its Google Play storefront as well as at third-party retailers. Investors haven't seen any official or third-party estimates on Nexus 7 unit volumes quite yet, but by all accounts it's selling reasonably well.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of base model Surface pre-orders selling out is that consumers hardly know anything about the device. At Microsoft's unveiling, members of the tech media weren't even allowed to handle the device personally. In fact, the device even crashed during its demonstration. Microsoft PR reps are the only people that have laid hands on it under very controlled circumstances.
Now, I'm not saying that buying a Surface is a horrible idea altogether. In fact, I'm genuinely intrigued by the innovative interface and ambitious strategy that Microsoft is undertaking. However, pre-ordering in general places blind faith in a device that you've never seen. No one knows a whole lot about Surface other than Microsoft. That also means consumers think the device will sell out immediately and that they won't have a chance to test drive one in a Microsoft retail store before choosing to take it home. With the company reportedly ordering up to 5 million units this quarter, I doubt it will sell out.
It's a good sign that demand is there. Now let's see if Microsoft reports unit sales figures.
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