Almost as quickly as it began early on May 6, Microsoft's one-day special $199 sale on Asus X200-MA laptop computers appeared to end by mid-morning when the Microsoft Website revealed that the available units had sold out.
For excited buyers who had learned about the one-day $199 sale in pre-event promotions and went online to buy one, it was likely a disappointing downer when the out-of-stock notices appeared upon clicking the "add to cart" button.
The Asus Windows 8 touch-screen laptops had been marked down $100 from their regular $299 price tag for the event. The machines featured an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, an 11.6-inch HD display and an estimated five hours of battery life. The promotion started at 3 a.m. EDT, and was scheduled to run until 3 a.m. EDT on May 7, according to a post on the Microsoft Windows Experience Blog.
So what happened, and why were the machines apparently all gone by 9 a.m. EDT when eWEEK checked the Website?
"Demand for the $199 Asus promotion across online and physical store channels has been incredibly strong," a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK in an email reply to our inquiry. "While we are sold out online, all full-line stores started the day with inventory, and as of now we still have units available in most stores." That was at 2:20 p.m. EDT today.
Well, that's what the Microsoft spokesperson said, but according to a conversation eWEEK had with a phone operator at Microsoft's Retail Store Website, there were no Asus sale laptops to be found in any Microsoft store across the nation. That's what the phone operator said at 9 a.m. EDT today.
To be fair, the Microsoft Asus laptop sale was advertised as only being available as long as supplies of the units lasted, according to the Website. But Microsoft isn't commenting about just how many units they had on hand when they began the promotion. Was it 500? Was it 25,000? Was it 50,000? Only Microsoft knows, and they are not telling.
Several prospective customers vented their frustration on the Microsoft Windows Experience Blog when they were unable to buy one of the devices.
"Was there any stock online with this?" wrote cicorias. "It was out of stock from the wee hours in the morning. Poor experience."
Another user, KT1, wrote "I was at the store within 20 minutes of calling, and they were 'Just' sold out ... after telling me they had plenty in stock. No rain check, nothing ... and this was at 11:00 a.m. in the morning! Quite disappointed in this fake sale. Nothing available online either."
I don't know, but if you're going to hold a sale to attract customers, and you are a company the size of Microsoft, it might not be a bad idea to plan ahead to have adequate stock to support the event.
No doubt, the special sale was aimed at dinging Google and its low-priced Chromebooks, but Microsoft didn't exactly hit a home run here.
If they did it to fight Chromebooks, they certainly didn't think it through very well.