Microsoft's Surface tablet has to be one of the most talked-about tablets right now, especially since we actually don't know too much at all about it other than some basic OS and headline spec credentials.
So just how big a punt is Microsoft prepared to take on its Windows 8 tablet superstar? Well, IDC says the company is building up a stockpile of 3 million units ahead of its official launch.
When asked about the number of Surface tablets expected to come into circulation by the end of 2012, IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell told CNET: “Probably a little over 3 million, both [Intel] x86 and ARM,”
“If they build a few million units there's no way they can sell it through Microsoft store only,” he added. “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.”
Take note of the “if” at the start of that paragraph, but truth be told Microsoft must surely be aware that it won't get far if it doesn't make the Surface available through as many channels as it possibly can.
The other popular theory right now is that Microsoft will look to sell the Surface at around the same $199 mark rivals Amazon and Google are charging for the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 respectively.
But O'Donnell has his doubts – unless we're talking $199 plus some kind of subscription tie-in. And even then, he suggests it won't be an easy sell.
“There could be two ways to get Surface. Buy it outright for, let's say, $599. Or $199 for a two-year subscription and you can get X,Y, and Z – which, oh, by the way, works out to more than $599,” he said.
“MS Office subscription? Any Windows RT product comes with Office. So, that knocks out that theory [something Microsoft itself has already ruled out].
“They do have a video store and music store. Theoretically they could give you a Netflix type or Pandora type deal with free access to music and video. But remember what happened to Netbooks and 3G, where you had to pay a monthly fee? That was a disaster. It took off initially but then nosedived.”
He also reasoned that given Microsoft is primarily a software company, pricing the Surface so aggressively would only compromise the primary objective for Windows 8 – selling licences to other hardware makers.
Hard to argue.