Surface Tablet Preorders Are an Uncertain Indicator of Future Sales

NEWS ANALYSIS: Long delivery times for the basic Surface tablet might indicate that the initial production run may already be sold out. But it’s hard to say how large the initial supply was and what it means for future demand of Surface tablets.

Microsoft has begun taking preorders for its much-anticipated Surface RT tablet. The new device, which comes with a version of Windows 8 and a limited version of Microsoft Office 2013, will be available in some configurations on Oct. 26. However the most basic version, which come with 32GB of memory and no touch cover, has already sold out, so the earliest you can get one of those is in about three weeks.

The other two versions, the 32GB version with the touch cover and the 64GB version, also with the touch cover, will be available on Oct. 26. While speculation about the price of the Surface has run amok between the announcement and the delivery, Microsoft has finally shared the prices of the Surface. The basic 32GB model will cost $499, which is the same as a WiFi–only iPad with 16GB of memory.

One way to look at this is with the Surface you get twice as much memory for the same price as you do with the iPad. You also get the Microsoft Office Home and Student edition. On the other hand, with the iPad you get a screen with the popular Retina display, which has about twice the resolution as the Surface.

The Surface does give you some other things, including features that have been missing from the iPad since its inception. The most notable of these is ports. This includes a USB port (a real one, not the Apple docking port), a micro SDXC memory card slot and an HD video port. While you can get each of those things with the appropriate iPad accessory, they’re not included when you buy an iPad.

Other things that come with the Surface include stereo speakers (although it’s hard to say just how good the sound is likely to be given the speaker size), two microphones, and a 16:9 aspect ratio display. The tablet weighs about the same as an iPad and it’s about the same size even though the shape is a little different.

One feature that Microsoft includes with its more expensive models is a black touch cover that includes touch-sensitive “keys” to allow easier typing than you get on the touch screen. Note that these aren’t actual keys, but rather defined areas on the inside surface of the cover that look like keys. You can get a cover with actual keys for an extra $120. Note that only the black cover is standard. You can get snazzier colors, but they cost extra.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...