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Contrary to claims that Microsoft has cut its orders for Surface tablets, Microsoft says it has “increased production”, while bringing the Surface to retailers in the US and Australia, with more countries to get Surface at retail next year.

Although there have been plenty of articles suggesting Microsoft would finally sell its Surface tablets at retailers in the US and Australia, Microsoft has finally made this move official.

Australians will be able to see, play with and buy the Surface RT tablet at local retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi “as soon as mid-December”, with Microsoft Australia’s “consumer channels group lead”, Nigel O’Rorke stating: “We’re excited to be working with JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman to expand the ways in which Australians can interact with, experience and purchase Surface”.

Several Microsoft holiday stores (presumably in the US as Microsoft never announced where these tablets might be seen in Australia) will also be “transitioned… into permanent Microsoft retail outlets”, with Microsoft saying the success of these stores being the fact in their transition to “either permanent brick-and-mortar retail outlets or specialty store locations”.

Panos Panay, the general manager of Microsoft’s Surface division added that: “The public reaction to Surface has been exciting to see. We’ve increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience and purchase Surface”.

Microsoft’s corporate VP of retail sales and marketing, Steve Schueler stated that Microsoft’s plan had “been to expand the retail presence for Surface after the first of the year”, however given “interest from retailers, we are giving them the option to carry Surface with Windows RT even earlier.”

As you might expect, Microsoft will continue selling its Surface RT tablets from its online stores in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France and China.

Microsoft then goes on to talk up its stores, which still haven’t made any official appearance in Australia (unlike Apple which is opening its 18th official Australian Apple Store this weekend in Fountain Gate, Victoria), stating they’ll “continue to offer best-in-class technology and a premium retail experience, allowing customers to interact with Microsoft products that impact the way people live, work and play”, and that “all Microsoft stores provide consumers with the same excellent choice, value and service in an engaging way to experience the best of Microsoft products.”

Frustratingly for Australian journalists, Microsoft has made few, if any, review models available for Australian tech journalists to review, so while I’ve certainly seen and played with Surface tablets at the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft scores a big fat zero for actual media engagement, which is a shame.

Perhaps Microsoft has done this on purpose, knowing stocks were tight, but unless Microsoft does more than issue the occasional press release, we can only guess.

Frustratingly for Australian consumers, ads for Surface tablets are on buses, billboards and everywhere you look, but at least Microsoft is finally making the effort to get Surface tablets into two of Australia’s major retailers, even though, by Microsoft’s own admission above, it took retailers to pressure Microsoft to make Surface available at retail.  

Get your act together, Microsoft, and you might actually sell a few of these things, and hopefully, by the time the Surface Pro is out, you’ll have review models ready from the word go, rather than saying “no” when journalists enquire whether review models are available.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks, including stints as presenter of Ch 10’s Internet Bright Ideas, Ch 7’s Room for Improvement and tech expert on Ch 9’s Today Show, among many other news and current affairs programs.

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