Jumping the Gun on Reports of Microsoft Surface Sales


Tablets are here to stay and the devices are huge consumer hits. Without a doubt they were front and center of holiday advertising and we are soon to find out how big of a seller they were this year – a trend that will continue in 2013.  It is hardly a surprise that a series of slightly-scientific reports and sensational headlines have emerged, including a number that indicate Microsoft’s Windows RT tablet has not produced a successful sales rate. One story featured a whopping sales ratio of 50 iPads for every one Windows Surface RT device is seemingly proposed –based on a sampling of tweets conducted by a Twitter user named “A.X. Ian”.

Tweets were analyzed for the phrase “First tweet from ____” <= (iPad, Surface, Nexus, Kindle). 

A.X. Ian sports a Twitter bio that describes him as an “information massage therapist”.  For the record, there is nothing that would cast doubt on Mr. Ian’s analysis and the share of information is welcomed.  What is interesting is the repeated regurgitation of this information across the interwebs – with the most titillating headlines that suggest the Surface is doomed.  I guess it sounds like a story- right?  Except that the analysis is being hyped way beyond what it actually should be taken for – an isolated sliver, and correlative indicator of information. Again, the analysis looked for a very limited and specific phrase. A tweet that fits into this sentence structure seems to be a bit unlikely-

First tweet from ?

I change devices all the time and while not the most prolific tweeter, I’m not quite sure who would tweet that sentence.  The assumption that this means something is corny at best, but numbers are numbers, so who really knows.

Some have pointed out that the technology audience for Twitter is probably more geeky than what one would expect from a Surface user, so maybe that’s why we’re seeing this difference. This would add some credence as to why there are also significant deficit ratios for the Kindle Fire (which we know is wildly successful), and the Google Nexus. (To which I would ask, shouldn’t the Nexus audience also be considered geeky?)

I’ve also seen analysis that consisted of reports that uses the observed amount of people in the Apple store versus the Microsoft store during the Christmas holiday and then extrapolating that into some kind of indicator of sales success. The problem with that is that it completely neglects that Apple sells a number of successful products in its store that are not iPads. We also don’t know much about the apparently hard to find Surface RT buyer and their store behavior- such as maybe Apple fanboys like to hang out in the Apple store, and perhaps their attendance can be tied to different times of the day. We could continue but it should be obvious this is a weak case.

With the understanding of the attention being paid to this and that the tablet space is exciting, journalists/bloggers are hungry for headlines. So we see the re-circulation of some little snippet of news that suggests this company or that company failing and that’s interesting – we’re all curious about how this is really stacking up.  The truth is that we will have to wait for the real deal as Microsoft will release this information officially soon enough – and yes, we could hear great sales reports and we could be getting some mediocre reports.

There is no doubt Microsoft has a ways to go to get the distribution, sales positioning, product information, and user adoption they need to be a giant success in the consumer devices market (you need all of that and they are just getting started).  Tech retail is largely Apple territory and the battle for media will be a big test, but Microsoft is not going anywhere.  There is little doubt this will be the spectacle we all expect it to be, but standby as there’s another strategy at hand which is rarely discussed, and which I’ll cover next.