Microsoft may be on to something with its Surface product family after all, with early indications being that the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro devices are selling far faster than their predecessors.
Part of outgoing chief executive officer Steve Ballmer's vision to turn Microsoft from a lumbering software giant into an agile 'products and services company,
' the Surface range is almost unheard of in the company's long history: Microsoft entering into direct competition with its own customers. The launch of the Windows RT-based Surface and more powerful Windows 8-based Surface Pro tablets was a gamble, and one that didn't seem to pay off: angered, Microsoft's own customers began to shelve plans to launch Windows RT products of their own while buyers roundly ignored Surfaces - leading directly to a near-billion-dollar write-down in the company's ledger.
Once pricing had been reduced, however, the Surface devices began to sell - and that small glimmer of hope was enough for Microsoft to forge ahead with a second generation of Surface tablets, with rumours suggesting that a third generation is waiting in the wings even now.
The Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets showed that Microsoft was listening to feedback: its integrated kickstand was revised to allow for easier use on a lap, the optional keyboard covers were modified to include backlighting for easier use at night, and the Surface 2 received a high-resolution display while the Surface 2 Pro enjoys a 75 per cent boost to its battery life - one of the biggest complaints, alongside the high original selling price, levied against its predecessor.
Initial indications are that listening works, too: according to anonymous 'internal sources
' speaking to Neowin
, Microsoft is receiving pre-orders for its latest-generation tablets faster than it can fulfil them. The Surface 2 64GB, Surface 2 Pro 256GB and 512GB, plus selected colours of Type Cover and the new Arc Mouse accessory, are all claimed to be on back-order - meaning initial production runs have been sold out.
That's a far cry from the launch of the original Surface devices, and suggests that Microsoft could be on to a winner this time around - although questions still remain regarding the long-term sustainability of the Windows RT platform, which has been roundly ignored by Microsoft's OEM and ODM partners. With Microsoft refusing to release firm figures, there's also the question of just how large that initial production run really was; eager to avoid another expensive write-down, it's entirely possible the company reduced its orders accordingly until it could properly gauge consumer interest.