Microsoft brings Surface tablet to retail

In a sign that Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) may be backing off its controversial direct-only sales strategy for its Windows 8 Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, Canadians can now buy a Surface RT tablet from Best Buy and Future Shop stores across Canada.

When Microsoft launched the Surface RT tablet along with its new Windows 8 OS last October, the direct-only sales strategy from the usually staunch advocate of the indirect model surprised many in the channel community. However, Microsoft said it would only make the Surface available through the Microsoft store and through its own Microsoft retail stores, and not through Microsoft’s traditional retailer and reseller channels.

That naturally limited the distribution channel available for the Surface – particularly in Canada, where the first Microsoft store just opened in Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall before last Christmas. People exposed to the Surface through Microsoft’s aggressive advertising campaign therefore had a hard time getting their hands on the tablet, not finding it in the retail locations they’re used to finding other Window products.

Consequently, sales figures for Surface have been been well below expectations, with analysts pointing to a glaring lack of distribution as the major issue.

RELATED STORY:Early look inside Microsoft’s first Canadian store

A Tweet on Thursday though from Microsoft Canada indicated a shift in the direct-only Surface strategy:

Future Shop (a subsidiary of Best Buy) is also carrying the tablet:

A representative from Microsoft Canada was not available to discuss the shift in strategy with CDN. Among the questions to be answered: will other retailers carry the Surface RT? Also, while the Surface RT is more consumer-focused, will the business-friendly Surface Pro now be available through Microsoft’s reseller partners and/or the retail channel?

We’ll post an update from Microsoft when more information is available.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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