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Ballmer admits slow Surface sales. But I think the tablet, and Windows 8 phones, will be a slow-burning success

PLUS: Telecom launching three Windows Phone 8 handsets.

Tue, 13 Nov 2012

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a French newspaper, over the weekend, that sales of the company’s new Surface RT tablet have been modest.

In New Zealand they’ve been zip. Microsoft’s local operation isn’t sure when the tablet will be released here.

There’s been better news on the Windows Phone 8 front. As NBR reported November 4), Telecom is releasing three Windows Phone 8 handsets before Christmas. the carrier will stage a launch next Monday featuring the Nokia Lumia 920 (a beautiful phone with frills like wireless recharging), the Samsung ATIV S and the HTC 8S. Vodafone and 2degrees have also made positive, if so far detail-free, promises of Windows Phone product before Christmas.

At this point in our Apple and Android dominated mobile lives, it’s hard to see the Surface, and Windows Phone 8 devices, being a rip-roaring success.

And yet, it’s almost certain they will gain traction in the market.

There are a half billion or so Windows 7 users out there. Once a decent whack of them upgrade to Windows 8 (and for most it will simply arrive with a new PC or laptop), Microsoft’s strategy of the same(ish) operating system software across computer, tablet and phone will start to hold more appeal.

A tablet that can seamless run the same software as your PC (or even replace your your PC or laptop when you dock it to a monitor and keyboard) will have a lot of appeal to some in the Windows camp. Through in a phone that can handle hassle free Microsoft Exchange synching and you've got a very appealing A-Z solution for corporates.

But don't look for any headway in the IDC sales charts in the immediate quarters to come. we’re definitely talking a slow burn here – as in one or two years, or longer. The beefier, Windows 8-based Surface Pro isn’t even released in the US until early 2013.

And only time will tell if success will be measured in terms of respectable minority share, or a full on market  challenge to Apple and Android’s domination.

Another open question: whether Nokia can stick it out that long, or at least not be tempted in other directions. Possibly as a contingency plan, it looks like Microsoft is planning its own smartphone.

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Ballmer admits slow Surface sales. But I think the tablet, and Windows 8 phones, will be a slow-burning success