13 Dec Microsoft moves tablets to retail sphere
Much like the Apple store, Microsoft has found that keeping its innovative devices in-house may not be the best way to attract customers. Without the market saturation of Apple, Microsoft's Surface RT tablet hasn't fared as well as the company hoped, pushing Microsoft to engage retail centers in talks about selling their tablets alongside competitors.
For years, Apple has diversified its sales outlets, operating within its own storefronts as well as partnering with companies like Radio Shack and Best Buy. Now, Microsoft is following this example, appealing to electronics retailers as well as big box stores that pull more consumer foot traffic. InformationWeek confirmed that Best Buy will begin carrying Surface tablets in time for the holiday season, but companies like WalMart and Target may also see these products on their shelves.
The launch of the Surface in October saw the rise of many stand alone stores similar to Apple's, with Microsoft retail locations offering hands-on demonstrations of its Windows phones, Surface tablets and Xbox consoles. These establishments provide a more immersive and product-specific experience, driving customers to pick among Microsoft's suite of offerings, rather than picking up a similar device with a lower price tag or perceived better features. This was the fear that originally kept the software giant from releasing its Surface tablets en masse to other retail chains to promote sales, as well as having to pay to put the devices there in the first place.
In a textbook engagement and marketing strategy, Microsoft is trying to encourage more people to get behind its technology by handing out Surface tablets to its own employees. ZDNet wrote that as holiday incentives, all full-time Microsoft employees will be receiving free devices, even members of their existing retail teams, in order to promote better visibility of the hardware. Hoping to bolster sales by creating a more positive and proliferate image in the consumer sphere, the source reported that this is a follow up strategy to Microsoft's Windows phone drive, which gave these same personnel free smartphones earlier this fall.
While technology analysts continue to debate the Surface's design and functionality, sales figures show that the devices are not doing as well as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer anticipated. NBC News reported that advertising inundation online, in print and on television did not pull the kind of sales figures the company was relying on so far this holiday season, pushing for more exposure and presence on store shelves. Since not every area has a Microsoft store nearby, that could have made Surface sales slump, so getting the devices shipped to third party retailers could present a better return on investment for the company's tablet presence.