Talking tech since 2003

It’s safe to say that the launch of Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet has been anything but smooth. It started with a somewhat mistargeted commercial that incorporated breakdancing and beatboxing, and continued on with the device’s retail availability. It’s widely reported now that many retail locations only received one or two Surface Pro units to sell, leading many media outlets to believe that Microsoft intentionally kept the product’s stock low in order to claim “sell-out” status, and to make the Surface Pro seem more in demand than it actually may be.

Microsoft isn’t responding to the accusations that it intentionally manipulated its Surface Pro stock, but it has posted an update on the company blog about the tablet’s availability.

Here’s the meat of it:

In the U.S., we are shipping additional units of the 64GB SKU to Best Buy, Staples and Microsoft Store now. We are shipping 128GB SKU later this week to retailers, with some units available by the end of the week. Our priority (and that of our retail partners) is to fulfill orders from customers who made a reservation first. Canada is following a similar timeline but may take an extra few days to start arriving.

In other words, Microsoft is first concerned with filling pre-orders, and will concentrate on keeping the product in stock after those pre-orders have been filled. Not a lot of hard details on Surface Pro availability, though.

It’s good that the company took to its blog to issue an update, but it shouldn’t get a pass. It’s tough to look at the situation Microsoft is in and believe that another company — say, Apple — would have wound up in a similar place. Without having to see numbers, I can almost guarantee that any iPad launch pulls in more pre-orders than the Surface Pro likely did, and Apple still manages to fill many of those and get a decent amount of stock to its retail partners, as well as into its own Apple Stores. And, when pre-orders exceed the amount of designated stock, Apple’s website makes sure you know it’ll be 5 to 7 days, or 2 to 3 weeks before your product is shipped.

Microsoft is experiencing some kind of breakdown here logistically. The company either has a bunch of Surface Pros sitting in a warehouse somewhere waiting to be shipped, or it didn’t make enough of them to meet even the slightest demand. And it has failed in one of the most basic areas of selling such products: letting your customers know how much stock is available, and when new stock will arrive if it’s sold out.

The Surface Pro is supposed to be Microsoft’s business answer to the iPad, but it can’t answer anything when it isn’t there. Microsoft needs to fix this quickly.

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