I have no idea how many Microsoft had available yesterday but I did want to make a few observations:
- Microsoft Stores had been giving away Surface Pro reservation cards for the week before availability. My local store ran out of reservations this past Wednesday or Thursday I believe. Most likely the bulk of their inventory was thus pre-committed and their were few Surface Pros available for walk-ins.
- I saw one report that Best Buy had allowed reservations with purchase of a $50 gift card. I’m not sure if that is the case, but if so it could mean that their inventory was also largely pre-committed and not available for walk-ins.
- Reports of dismal supplies yesterday are based on anecdotal conversations with Best Buy and Staples employees. But it isn’t clear how much inventory Microsoft would have committed to each store (or rather, how much each of those stores would have ordered). Performance of the Surface, or of other tablet devices, at those chains might have suggested sales rates that dictated a steady stream of a low number of devices over having large initial stocks.
- In my discussions with Microsoft Store employees last week I got the impression that they expected to have adequate supply on hand to meet first day walk-ins. That suggests demand was greater than expected, though of course each store could have had fewer devices on hand than they were expecting.
- That microsoftstore.com sold out and doesn’t allow backorders suggests to me that considerable additional supplies are being targeted at retailers. My thinking here is that Microsoft would be concerned that if they allowed backorders then they would be “soft”, meaning that buyers would keep checking retailers and as soon as they got their hands on the Surface Pro they would cancel the online order. That would create an inventory imbalance problem for them. And it is a hint that Microsoft is focused on making the Surface Pro a success in traditional retail in the short-term over moving product through its most profitable channel (and perhaps alienating those retailers).