Harvey Norman will begin retailing Microsoft’s Surface RT this Friday, almost two months after the tablet became available solely through Microsoft’s online store.
Microsoft’s first push into the tablet market was marred by a backlash from partners who were unimpressed they had been bypassed for the much-hyped Surface RT.
Harvey Norman head of computers Ben Macintosh told CRN in late October he expected to be selling the tablet later in the year for the Christmas period.
He told CRN today Harvey Norman had informed Microsoft its decision to bypass its retail partners was a mistake. He said the retailer would have shipped a high amount of units due to “impressive” demand for the product.
“Ever since they decided not to put it into retail and only sell through their own stores and website, as great partners do we gave robust feedback, and said that was a mistake,” he said. “We said sale opportunities would be limited if customers couldn’t feel it and see it themselves.”
“The interest in this product is nothing short of amazing. I’m not exaggerating. It is literally a product we could have sold very well if we’d had it beforehand. But there’s no point crying over spilt milk, and we’ll be selling it big from Friday.”
Harvey Norman has unleashed a bonanza of Windows 8 products from the likes of Asus, HP, Samsung and Toshiba — 30 products at launch with 56 in line for Christmas, pending a delay from tablet makers for their hybrid devices, due in part to a worldwide display panel shortage.
The Surface RT will be in Harvey Norman metropolitan stores and eastern seaboard stores this Friday, as first reported by the AFR. The retailer will sell the device in the three SKUs available on Microsoft’s website: the 32GB model for $559, the 32GB model bundled with the black Touch Cover accessory for $679, and the bundled 64GB model for $789.
It will also retail the Touch and Type cover accessories separately, for $139.99 and $149.99 respectively.
Microsoft did not respond to request for comment.
The business-focused version of the tablet, the x86-based Surface Pro, is due to land in January. Microsoft has indicated it will go the same route and retail the product directly but is yet to confirm its sales strategy.
Macintosh said there’s been no official word but he expects Microsoft will listen to the feedback and go straight to its partners.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CRN US Microsoft had ditched its channel route-to-market with the tablet because it was a “new” area for the company, but didn’t rule out a return to its partners.
“We made a decision to get into the market in a way where we know we’ll have a perfect experience to get started, and then we can always do more -- go broader,” he said.
“We had no idea what kind of a reaction we were going to get to the product, to the concept of us doing Surface. So we took our first step. It doesn’t mean we can’t take other steps.”
Update 11.12.12 : JB Hifi has confirmed it will also begin selling the tablet. Microsoft did not repsond to request for comment on whether its reseller partners would also be allowed in on Surface sales.