One lesson to date: While Apple can still command top dollar, Windows tablets only become widely desirable when they drop to Android-level pricing.
The same seems to be true among consumers. In addition to concluding that the Surface was Best Buy's top Black Friday seller, InfoScout found that Apple's $299 iPad Mini was the top seller at Walmart. Target's top three sellers were also iPad models, and all three sold for substantially more than Best Buy's $199 Surface fire sale.
The InfoScout survey is based on data captured from 125,000 North American users, which makes it a limited sample, but if it suggests anything, it's this: Whereas Apple can still command top dollar, Windows tablets only become widely desirable when they drop to Android-level pricing.
"We've seen that limited price promotions will often cause an uptick in sales for our other products," Eskridge said of the discounts, noting that although a Surface might lure a customer into the store, that customer might leave with the more expensive Surface Pro 2.
Between Windows 8.1 and new form factors, Microsoft and its partners did a lot of retooling to make Windows tablets more attractive. So far, the progress has been modest.
Does that mean Microsoft and its partners will convert some of the most aggressive discounts into permanent prices? Doing so could potentially boost shipment volume at the expense of margins, and perhaps, as Eskridge implied, increase the number of would-be customers who can be up-sold to costlier models.
"It was important for us to have an intriguing offer around such a busy shopping weekend," said Eskridge, not quite answering the question. "We knew we could generate some interest with the promotion."
Unfortunately for Microsoft, the interest doesn't seem to have extended far. On Dec. 30, InfoScout released new numbers that tracked U.S. retail spending between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. The 16-GB iPad Mini was the most-bought item during this span and other iPad models occupied the fifth, eleventh, and twelfth slots on InfoScout's list.
Microsoft scored a victory with the Xbox One, which ranked second. But only two Windows 8.1 devices placed among the top 15: HP's Pavilion TouchSmart 14 laptop, at number four, and Microsoft's 32-GB Surface, at 15. Based on these numbers, the Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 supply shortages might have had more to do with constrained inventory than overwhelming demand.
Microsoft VP Panos Panay displays new Surface keyboard accessories at the debut of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 in New York.
The Chitika data paints a similar story. Yes, Surface tablets gained share while iPads lost some. But the survey still concluded that Apple's devices account for more than three-quarters of all tablet use. In this context, is the Surface's 2.3% share really a victory? It's like a basketball player who makes a flashy shot when his team is already down by thirty points -- notable, but ultimately not very important.
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