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Microsoft Surface RT plagued by "very high" return rates

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Microsoft Surface RT plagued by
There has been a pretty wide range of sales estimates when it comes to the Microsoft Surface RT tablet. Some estimates put the numbers as high as 1 million sold, some merely say 900,000 shipped, and some say that it could be as bad as 230,000 units sold. Whatever the actual number, it seems that one major factor in determining the final tally is that the Surface RT has been plagued by "very high" return rates. Back in October, the day after the tablet was first released, Microsoft was forced to change its return policy to allow customers to return Surface tablets in opened packaging. 

According to IHS iSuppli, Microsoft shipped around 1.25 million Surface RT tablets in Q4, but only about 55-60% of those units were actually sold. This would mean sales around 680,000 to 750,000, but in addition to those low sell-through rates for the tablet, iSuppli says that the tablet also saw "very high" return rates. The low sell-through rate isn't necessarily uncommon, as iSuppli says similar rates can be seen in various new Android tablets, but the combination of low sell-through and high returns is a big red flag. 

According to iSuppli, the current gold standard for sell-through rate is the Apple iPad, which is typically in the "mid to high 90 percent range or even 100 percent". This could be attributed not only to the popularity of the iPad, but also to Tim Cook's expertise in supply chain, and the fact that Apple keeps such a small amount of stock on hand at any given time, maximizing sell-through rates. 

IHS iSuppli analyst Rhoda Alexander said that the reason for the high return rate was "linked in a lot of cases to a steep learning curve of the [Windows 8] OS -- which is not necessarily intuitive." This is a common complaint with Windows 8/RT, but also something of a lazy excuse. There may be a couple things that are a bit unintuitive with the OS, but they tend to be issues that are more commonly experienced on a non-touchscreen device. On a touchscreen device, Windows 8/RT is definitely intuitive, and easy to learn. We would have been convinced more if the reasoning had been due to the limitations of RT compared to Windows 8.

source: Venture Beat via CNET

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posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:01 15

1. Ninetysix (Posts: 2384; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)

iPad killer this is not.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:06 1

2. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

RT sucks, the only good windows 8 tablets are the expensive ones like the razer edge.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:30 3

14. SkOne (Posts: 95; Member since: 02 May 2012)

forgot the Ativ Pro

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:46 3

17. Commentator (Posts: 3692; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)

I don't think he was trying for a comprehensive list...

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:11 1

22. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

Ativ Pro is nice, i'm going to wait for haswell and see if we can get some quad core i7s with gt3 in tablets before I buy one.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:33 5

15. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

I don't think the Surface RT is even an Android tablet killer, for that matter. Nice MS is all mum about RT sales, I tend to think the 230,000 number is closer to reality.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 20:45

39. RaKithAPeiRiZ (Posts: 1488; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)

problem is the amount of storage the OS uses up ,and people are better off with a trustable iOs tablet or a affordable Android tablet

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 21:20

42. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

Theres no excuse for the low storage, they are using solid states not phone flash memory they should go up to atleast 256gb.

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 00:18

49. MorePhonesThanNeeded (Posts: 645; Member since: 23 Oct 2011)

SSD's are still expensive considering they are little more than densely pack flash memory chips in a 2.5" form factor. Chips are always expensive, won't change any time soon. MS enjoys a high amount of money on each Surface sale, even higher than Apple. So why would they want to cut into those profits? MS problems is Windows is too damn bloated for it's own good, 20GB of OS....for what?
Just because HDD are getting larger, doesn't mean we need an OS that just eats up space for the hell of it, you swear it was filled with 7.1 channel True HD audio and 1080p video with commentary for each application.

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 01:07

51. OHaZZaR (Posts: 131; Member since: 19 Aug 2011)

I'm actually glad it's not selling. Now Microsoft is going to try really hard to impress us with their next iteration of the surface. Instead of making "The clicking sound" the most exciting feature.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:08 2

3. tward291 (Posts: 559; Member since: 14 Feb 2012)

What a bs story leave it to phone arena to post it. What evidence do they have of this. Of course the tablet sold low, but reliability people. I got some info phone arena that I will give you

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:22 6

10. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

IHS iSuppli is a reputable company that does a lot of research in supply chain. But, if you have info, we'd love to see it. Just send it to: tips@phonearena.com

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:47

29. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5498; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)

Why PhoneArena.com almost never mentions - thanks for users who provides tips? :)

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:50 1

30. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

We do when tips are provided with a name, but the vast majority of tips either don't have a name, or come in after we've already posted the story.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 19:02

31. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5498; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)

What if I'm providing news with name "PhoneArenaUser", it doesn't count?

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 20:01 2

36. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Using your real name, even if it's just a first name, will always help. A screen name is too similar to being anonymous.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 20:47 1

41. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5498; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)

I understand. :)

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:37 6

16. JesterB (Posts: 17; Member since: 17 Nov 2011)

I don't know why you would think this story is BS. 4 of my friends picked up windows phones and they were all returned. I returned my Surface tablet for may reasons.... mostly because it just didnt work well. The apps are NOT there no matter what people tell you. A perfect example is Instagram... Windows users are screaming for it and they will never get it... on the other hand RIMM's phones have not even hit the market yet and Instagram is talking to them to bring the App to Rimm. Windows is dead my friends and I am just as frustrated as you.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 20:46 1

40. Whodaboss (Posts: 176; Member since: 18 Nov 2011)

Yes. And 5 of my friends an family members who pickup Windows Phones and loves it! And none of them use, care, or gives two cents about Instagram. And as a Windows user I am not screaming for Instagram. Please do not lump me or "every" WP user in your statements. As a Windows user I realize everyone has their preferences. You have yours and I have mine. And I plan on picking up a Surface this upcoming month.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 21:23 1

43. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

Makes sense, don't buy a device just because theres no instagram...

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:55 3

19. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

All I will say is this:

When that same source is went to for other stories...and no one really has a problem with it...is it really bs? Or is it more of you are a fan of the product and just dont wanna believe it?

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:09 2

4. idroidequis (Posts: 103; Member since: 23 Jan 2013)

Im sure the storage issues are one of the main point. Now a days when you can get a ultrabook for 700$ they need to price the surface better. Im sufe itll sell better then.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:26 1

12. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

I'm suprised the companys like Asus and Lenovo haven't been pushing out affordable windows 8 rt tablets. Maybe at MWC we will get some more choices.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:15 1

7. AfterShock (Posts: 3698; Member since: 02 Nov 2012)

Do not want!

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:19

8. papss (unregistered)

Yikes... That is terrible. Maybe I'll be able to get one on the cheap. One tablet from each would be awesome

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:54

18. joey_sfb (Posts: 5749; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)

My suggestion is to wait for Surface Pro running a Windows 8 pro. Desktop windows are staying with Microsoft for good unlike RT microsoft may pull the plug to conserve their resources.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:18

24. papss (unregistered)

Oh I'm already getting a surface pro but if I could get this real cheap my son would love to have his own tablet plus it would keep his hands off mine

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:23 3

11. Joshing4fun (Posts: 1236; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)

Everyone wants one until they realize they can't do anything with it besides awkwardly type stuff in Word and browse the web without flash. I'm glad I decided against getting one. Close call!

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:29

13. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

I might get one after haswell comes out, its going to be a major improvement gpu/battery life. The new integrated that we will see in them is equal to the low end 650ms so we will be playing pc games on tablets on medium-high.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:58

20. cornerofthemoon (Posts: 590; Member since: 20 Apr 2010)

Touchpad 2?

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 17:59 1

21. Edmund (Posts: 656; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)

I've witnessed first hand a situation where a customer was asking about the Surface RT tablet and the somewhat ignorant 18yo sales assistant started bad-mouthing it. He was happy to recommend garbage like the galaxy tab 2 10.1 and other outdated android tablets though. I even interrupted the conversation to correct this idiot's lies.
The Surface RT is a very capable tablet, but it's also a first generation product, so unless you're apple it's very unlikely you'll be hitting the ball out of the park on the first pitch.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:14

23. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

Only way to know for sure it to try them all out, Windows RT is better than android/ IOS atleast but the price is not right.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:21 2

26. Lboogey6 (Posts: 281; Member since: 31 Jan 2012)

Why is rt better?

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 19:54 2

34. haroonazeem638 (Posts: 141; Member since: 29 Mar 2011)

Yes. I would like to hear that too. Why is RT better than Android tablets?
Because last time I checked RT tabs are crap and they have high return rates too...which means people TRIED them before returning them!

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 01:43 2

52. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

Because edmund is a shameless windows fanboy that's why.
That being said, I agree that galaxy tab 10. 2 is a pretty bad tablet.
But there are loads of great ones.
I bet Edmund would recommend the surface even against Asus transformer prime 700..which is about the same price. And absolutely destroys in comparison

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:19 2

25. Lboogey6 (Posts: 281; Member since: 31 Jan 2012)

What determines garbage ? According to its limitations and lack of sales it could be considered garbage. If a customer asks me aboht a windows product its a short conversation even after research and having for 30 days. Something ms needs to keep in mind the quote "i'd rather have and not need, than need and not have"

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 20:11 1

37. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Why is the Galaxy Tab and other Android tablets garbage? Because you dont like them? Because you like Windows better?

In all honestly...the only really garbage mobile OS's was early versions of Win Mo and Blackberry when comparing them to mobile OS's now. At the time BB was probably better than Win Mo overall.

Trust me when I say I dont use anything that sucks tremendously or is garbage. I use Android...really like it. I dont really like WP or iOS, the iPhone. I also dont think they're garbage. I just dont like them. I do like the new BB. Something else doesnt have to suck because you dont like it. But hey...if you feel that way... thats your opinion.

Android 1.6 vs Android now....yea it didnt look as good. It didnt look as good as 2.2 and 2.3. It also lagged alot then vs Android now. I have a Maxx HD. It has what some consider outdated specs. My phone is one of the smoothest, least laggiest Androids I have owned. Others I had that were also smooth: G Nex, Rezound, Razr.

Now my Droid 1 and Droid X1...compared to the others I mentioned...werent all that good. At the time they were tho. The others I mentioned I didnt have to change the home screen to make the home screen scroll smoother. They were fine out the box. Garbage...? All I can say is thats your opinion.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 22:28

46. luxzy801 (Posts: 140; Member since: 16 Jun 2010)

Hey jroc, I think you got that kinda backwards. Since you said WinMo was garbage, tell me what do the new OS's do that WinMo didnt besides having a dedicated app store?

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 01:49 1

53. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

Windows mobile was GREAT in it's latest iteration.
Apart from the lack of apps, it was by far the best OS at the time.
Check this beauty out:


posted on 02 Feb 2013, 03:42

60. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Again...thats why I said early versions. lol. I didnt stick around to update to the latest.

Even what I had on my Omnia 1 was fine.

posted on 02 Feb 2013, 03:39

59. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

You missed it where I said ...early versions of Win Mo?

posted on 02 Feb 2013, 03:49

61. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

I'm not talking about what they have or features...I'm talking about the overall package, user experience.

Win Mo was frustrating to use at times. The real finger based OS's for phones were better....IMO. I never got into using the stylus, it just didnt seem right if the phone was supposed to be touch based.

That was also part of the problem I had....the old Win Mo was really a stylus type OS....that tried to add touch features as an add on. I didnt use the latest version of Win Mo...thats why I said earlier versions. I stopped at 6. I think the HD2 got it right.....Win Mo finally going to capacitive screens...by that time I was on my way out of Win Mo land and into Android land...

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 20:17

38. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

What I will say tho is to me....Surface Pro would be the best tablet to get. I am actually leaning towards that over Android. Make the price cheaper....and it is a killer device. Although I have lots of Android apps.....they would do me more use on an Android tablet.

But just being able to use my desktop apps on a Surface Pro tablet? Thats also hard to pass up.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:28 1

27. chris_t610 (Posts: 14; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)

serves you right, Ballmer! MS has been manipulating too much of the computing space, including the very late release of WP7.8 that doesn't even offer new functionality except for tiles. I'd be watching this space and watch the demise of this stupid surface.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 18:41 1

28. pfroo40 (Posts: 28; Member since: 12 Jun 2012)

Tablets in general have a high return rate. I used to work in a retailer that sold a ton of tablets, and all of them had a high percentage that came back. At the end of an average day we would have taken approx. 10 iPad returns and sold around 30. Android was similar. I don't work there anymore, so not sure about Surface specifically so it could be higher but I doubt it'd be significantly more than competitors.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 19:05

32. Taters (banned) (Posts: 6474; Member since: 28 Jan 2013)

I would have purchased one at launch if it had a full HD screen and was cheaper. Unfortunately, Microsoft wanted to reserve that resolution for the pro devices, which was a very poor move.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 19:32 3

33. rusticguy (Posts: 2828; Member since: 11 Aug 2012)

Ah!! now i see why there's a lack of monkey dancing

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 19:55

35. pookiewood (Posts: 631; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)

"linked in a lot of cases to a steep learning curve of the [Windows 8] OS -- which is not necessarily intuitive"

Some people are dumb.

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 01:59 1

56. speckledapple (Posts: 892; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)

dumb and certainly lazy thats for sure.

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 22:12

44. Jkidd569 (Posts: 10; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

the problem with this is its price tag. This may not be an ipad killer right off the start, but its actually a good tablet. Microsoft needs to lower the price of the surfaces, both the rt and pro versions. The 32GB surface rt should priced at $399 and the 64GB surface pro should be priced at $599

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 22:17

45. lubba (Posts: 1313; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)

Oh my God! Steep learning curve!? Have mercy techies, mercy

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 22:34

47. Tsepz_GP (Posts: 987; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)

No surprise here then, after all, its a Microsoft product.

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 08:26

57. haseebzahid (Posts: 1853; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

so is the Xbox the most popular console :P

posted on 31 Jan 2013, 22:42 1

48. luxzy801 (Posts: 140; Member since: 16 Jun 2010)

I dont think the price tag has anything to do with it, even at $399, people will still find problems with it and tell everyone else that if it was cheaper, they would buy it.
The fact is, everyone is straight out against microsoft at this point that nobody cares about what they put out, it started in the WinMo days and it was, in part, to Microsoft's own fault, just like it is now. They can throw out as many commercials and as many cool looking and awesome ads as they like, but unless they can get the sales force to push these puppies and make people feel that they got the best tablet on the market, microsoft is going to sink BAD. The reason why WinMo failed is not because it was a bad OS, in reality, far from it. WinMo was Android way before android. As I always say, tell me what you can do on an android device, and I will tell you how to do it on a WinMo device. The failure of WinMo was a failure of Microsoft for not training and getting sales associates on thier side, back in 2007, you would walk into an AT&T store and look at a WinMo device, and the associate would immediately say that it was slow, hard to operate, and you might as well use it as a paperweight as soon as you buy it and point you to the iPhone, when the iPhone was compete crap and the only thing that iFeaturePhone had going for it was an app store. If Microsoft does not sway the people that are actually selling these products, they will never succees, even if thier product is 500k times better, more efficient and has 1 million more apps than any other product.

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 01:51

54. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

I loved windows mobile, completely agree on that part

posted on 02 Feb 2013, 04:26

62. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

You are forgetting one lil detail....ppl that were already using Win Mo left. That wasnt all the sales rep fault, or new users being pushed into something else. That was ppl leaving because they wanted something better, they wasnt happy with what they had. They saw something they thought was better.

You do remember at one time RIM and MS were 1-2 n marketshare?

And after trying something else....they didnt go back. I was one of the former Win Mo users that was so frustrated....I almost got an iPhone. I tried one at work...and was sold after 15 minutes. No commercials, no Apple fairy dust....just using the phone for a while.

What MS did do was wait too late to go to capacitive screens...and an all finger based OS. They ditched resistive screens and the stylus too late. By that time...the Droid 1 was on its way....and the rest is history. MS had a chance with the HD2...that phone shoulda either came earlier.....or had some promotions behind it to get current and new users attention.

The Droid 1 came out in Oct 2009...the HD2 in Nov 2009. Those months difference made all the difference in the world...and the Droid advertising by Verizon. I was so frustrated with Win Mo...I just knew I needed a phone with a physical keyboard. I didnt give the HD2 a 2nd look. Turns out it was the OS and the screen. Cuz I barely used the keyboard on my Droid 1.

I think many that left Win Mo had frustrating experiences like me. Ppl dont just leave a platform for no reason. Many ppl left for a reason. The trackpad, ball experience was also better on BB.

posted on 11 Feb 2013, 21:26

64. luxzy801 (Posts: 140; Member since: 16 Jun 2010)

yo jroc, didnt we have a converstaion like this before! Its good to have an intelligent conversation on here without someone shoving some sort of commercial for their favorite phone!

Anyway, you should know jroc, that even when WinMo was considered DEAD, it still held a higher market share than Windows Phone. Windows Mobile refused to die, and in 2011 had a 7% market share, pretty good considering that Windows Phone only had 1.5 and WinMo was not supported anymore or being sold anymore. The sales reps could have easily pushed the same exact features that they push with Android today (Multi Tasking, Cut and Paste, Device-Data Storage, Expandible Storage, better CPU, more ram). My Palm Treo had the same specs as the 3G, The HTC Touch Pro had 288 with a 528MHz processor in 2008, at the same time, the 3G had a 412MHz processor, 128MB Ram and no expandible storage, no cut and paste, no multi-tasking. The iPhone 3GS had 600MHz and 256MB RAM in 2009, which wasnt much better and that was Mid 2009. Tell me now that it wasnt the sales reps bro.
If somebody pushed Android with better specs than iPhone, which one would you choose, now if the sales reps told you that the android OS was slow, laggy, crappy, the phones were trash, the screen was not as responsive and you might as well just buy a piece of metal cuz it would be a better investment, which one would you buy?

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 00:49 1

50. aco96 (Posts: 240; Member since: 12 Oct 2012)

Surface RT is not a bad tablet, but it's definitely overpriced...

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 01:57

55. speckledapple (Posts: 892; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)

I think the lazy comment is certainly true. People can whine all day about things they are so used to like the start menu or any other non essential remark but it comes down to being partly lazy in utilizing something that is obviously faster and more useful regardless of having a touch screen or not. Its the excuses that keep some people from learning something while others are just lazy. And those who actually take a little effort to experience something new all of a sudden realize that now they cannot live without it.

Microsoft probably has to alter their selling strategy a bit and get a hold of their supply chain and distribution system. I think it will sell better over time.

posted on 01 Feb 2013, 10:25 1

58. 7thspaceman (Posts: 1546; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)

To a lot of Windows users if a Windows tablet cannot run standard Windows software it is not What they want. so the Microsoft windows RT computer will not be their first choice. Microsoft so far appears to not have explained to the public that the Surface Windows RT
Tablets run only touch screen Apps like the Ipads and Android tablets do so People who buy them return them when they learn they wont run standard Programs. The Microsoft
"Surface Pro" runs standard Windows Desktop/Laptop programs and preliminary reviews
say it is a WINNER but it's cost may be it's Achilles heel. Microsoft rumor has it is going
to be selling cheaper Surface computers. They have learned the harse reality about how to make a good Tablet that will sell well. On their first try it appears only the "Surface Pro" will survive. The next surface Pro will be bigger and the Next Surface RT will be smaller. Microsoft has to explain the surface RT reason for being to the public and support it for itto survive. I think Surface RT';s will not sell as well as A Surface pro because Windows users
Prefer a Windows tablet that can run Standard windows Desktop/laptop programs as well as the newer touch screen Apps

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