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Microsoft Mum On Surface Tablet Sales

Ballmer says sales of the Windows RT device are modest, but declines to provide details as Apple sells 3 million new iPads in three days.

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Microsoft is being tightlipped when it comes to divulging how many Surface units it has sold since the Windows 8-based tablet went on sale two weeks ago.

CEO Steve Ballmer told the French daily Le Parisien on Saturday that Surface sales "are starting modestly," but the company declined to follow up with more detailed information.

That may be an indication that Surface sales have not been strong out of the gate. Apple last week was quick to point out that it sold 3 million iPads in three days after launching iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad on Oct. 23 "We set a new launch weekend record and practically sold out of iPad minis. We're working hard to build more quickly to meet the incredible demand," CEO Tim Cook said, in a statement.

[ Retailers are doing a lousy job explaining the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Read more at Consumer Confusion Coming As Retailers Mislabel Windows RT. ]

Ballmer, speaking to the French newspaper, was much more conservative in his remarks. He said that reported shortages of Surface units are "a good sign" and that Microsoft would "fix this problem quickly."

Microsoft launched Surface on Oct. 26, the same day Windows 8 systems from Dell, Acer, Samsung, Sony and other vendors debuted. For now, the only available model is Surface RT, which runs Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 that is limited to running Microsoft software and Metro-style apps downloaded from the Windows Store.

Surface RT, like all Windows RT devices, uses ARM-based mobile chips designed to provide long battery life while reducing heat emissions. The downside is that they will not run software written for older versions of Windows, including Windows 7, Vista and Windows XP.

Systems running Windows RT are also incompatible with some Microsoft back-end security and administration tools. For instance, they cannot be connected to Active Directory domains.

Microsoft plans to launch Surface Pro in the coming weeks. It is designed to run Windows 8 Professional on Intel's newest generation of Atom chips. Such systems will be capable of running the full line of legacy Windows software, which could make them a popular choice for business users. They should also be fully compatible with security and admin tools for Windows.

Surface RT starts at $499 for the 32GB unit. As of early Monday, Microsoft was limiting online orders for that particular model to two units, an indication that supplies are tight. Orders for the $599 32GB unit, with included Touch Cover, and the $699 64GB unit, were limited to five.

Upgrading isn't the easy decision that Win 7 was. We take a close look at Server 2012, changes to mobility and security, and more in the new Here Comes Windows 8 issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: Why you should have the difficult conversations about the value of OS and PC upgrades before discussing Windows 8. (Free registration required.)

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