We don’t have actual sales numbers for Surface yet, but let’s put this one in a little perspective anyway. The most thrown around number is that Microsoft sold 1 Million Surfaces during the holiday season. The Surface was only available for about two out of three months. And until well into December it was only available at the 23 Microsoft Store locations, 32 “pop-up” holiday stores (many of which were just small kiosks in shopping malls), and online at the little known http://www.microsoftstore.com. Meanwhile in the previous quarter Apple sold around 14 million iPads at its approximately 400 Apple Stores, and tens of thousands of other retailers around the world (Best Buy alone has 1400 locations).
Let’s ignore both online and 3rd party retail outlets and assume all sales of both products went through company-owned store (nearly true for Surface). One could do more precise numbers (actual selling days for example), but I’m just going to ballpark this. Assume Surface sold 1 Million devices over 65 days or 15385 Surfaces per day. They had 55 stores and kiosks, so that works out to 280 Surfaces per store per day. Apple sold 14 million over 90 days or 155556 iPads per day, or 389 per Apple Store per day. Not a bad performance by Microsoft actually, but this is the best case for Apple!
Apple gets about 11% of its revenue through the Apple retail stores. So obviously most sales do not come through that channel. Apply any rational number to spread iPad sales over the entire distribution system and the Microsoft Surface numbers start to look outstanding. If iPad sales were split evenly between Apple retail stores and other outlets then Apple was selling 195 iPads per store per day, or far less than the Surface sales rate through the equivalent (and in its case only) channel. Again that’s being very generous to Apple retail stores.
My point here isn’t to claim that somehow Surface sold better than iPad. That’s total nonsense. My point is that when you put the Surface numbers in the kind of context that most products sold through retail are evaluated on the doomsayers are full of bull excrement. Given a distribution channel of only 55 outlets and availability for only part of the quarter, hitting 1 million units sold would actually be an outstanding achievement! I didn’t even take into account that not all 55 outlets were in operation on the first day of Surface availability or that their were some initial product shortages.
It will be interesting to see what Microsoft says when they announce last quarters financial results this week, but if they actually hit 1 million Surface devices sold I’d consider it a Home Run (though not a Grand Slam). Microsoft has a long way to go to be successful with the Surface family, Windows RT, or even Windows 8. But put in proper context the Surface may be off to a great start, not the dismal start that many would have us believe.