Microsoft's Surface tablets don't launch for another two months but the company is obviously expecting huge demand. CNet cites an IDC analyst in reporting that Microsoft is expecting to build three million Surface tablets -- and that's just for this year. Yes, the Surface is launching at the end of October, and Microsoft is apparently building three million for two months of availability.
So the plan is to ship a few million units before the year is out, but Microsoft said earlier this year that the Surface would only be available through its own brick and mortar retail stores. According to IDC's Bob O'Donnell, that's going to have to change if Microsoft wants to shift millions of units.
"If they build a few million units there's no way they can sell it through Microsoft store only," he told CNet. "So I think that they'll sell it through traditional retail also. You can't build that many products without having a much wider distribution strategy. They just haven't shared that [strategy] yet."
Microsoft's Surface is scheduled to launch October 26, the same day as Windows 8, but Microsoft has yet to announce pricing for either the Intel- or ARM-based models. Recent rumors have suggested the Windows RT version could sell for as little as $200. O'Donnell says it's possible that Microsoft may work out a deal similar to the $99 Xbox, where customers would pay $199 and then an additional fixed amount every month for some kind of service, but he doubtful of this theory.
If Microsoft is hoping to shift million of Surface tablets in the first few months, the pricing is going to have to be very aggressive. Perhaps Microsoft plans to offer subscription-based pricing, or partner with carriers to subsidize 3G-equipped versions of the tablets. Perhaps the company is going it alone and will really offer the Windows RT for $200, no strings attached. We'll know for sure when Microsoft finally starts talking about prices.