Windows 8 tablet now available at retail outlets as Microsoft looks to jumpstart sales.
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Surface RT, previously available only through Microsoft's website or its brick-and-mortar stores, is now on sale at retailers Best Buy and Staples as part of Redmond's effort to bolster distribution of the Windows 8 tablet, initial sales of which are said to be slow.
Best Buy is currently offering Surface RT for sale only online, but said it would stock the device in its stores starting Sunday. "Customers have come to expect Best Buy -- both its store and website -- to be the place with the broadest selection of consumer electronics, and our sale of this much-hyped new tablet just reinforces that point," said BestBuy.com president Scott Durchslag, in a statement.
Staples currently has Surface RT for sale both online and in stores. "Staples is excited to provide this innovative product to customers just in time for the holiday season," said Mike Edwards, Staples executive VP for merchandising, also in a statement.
Retail shoppers appear impressed with the device. Consumer reviewers on Best Buy's site gave all three available models, the $499 32-GB version, the $599 32-GB with Touch Cover version, and the $699 64-GB version, an average score of 4 out of 5 stars or higher. "It's much better than other tablets because it comes with MS Office," wrote one customer.
[ Will Microsoft introduce more hardware products beyond Surface? CEO Steve Ballmer suggests it's likely. ]
In another effort to boost sales of Surface and other Windows 8-related products, Microsoft this week said it will convert a number of so-called pop-up stores it opened around the country for the holidays into permanent locations.
"Based on the success of the Microsoft holiday stores, the company will extend all of these locations into the new year. These stores will transition into either permanent brick-and-mortar retail outlets or specialty store locations," Microsoft said in a statement.
Microsoft has not commented publicly on Surface RT sales, but some analysts have said that they are running below the company's expectations. Analysts at Boston-based brokerage firm Detwiler Fenton last week pegged sales of Surface RT at between 500,000 and 600,000 units since the product launched.
Surface RT runs a pared down version of Windows 8 known as Windows RT. The OS, which runs on ARM-based chips, is not compatible with standard Windows applications. It supports only software pre-installed by Microsoft or apps downloaded from the company's online Windows Store.
Surface Pro runs full-blown Windows 8, and it's also compatible with legacy Windows applications and Microsoft's full-range of security and management products. It will be available starting in January, according to Microsoft.
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