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Microsoft sells out of Surface Pro, just like the Zune HD did in 2009

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Microsoft has announced "amazing" customer response to its tablet/notebook hybrid Surface Pro, and reports have noted that the higher end 128GB model has sold out in some locations "immediately" after going on sale, just as the Zune HD did in 2009.

In a blog posting earlier today, the company didn't report how many units of the new Surface Pro it had sold, or even had shipped to stores, and was even careful not to imply that the "amazing" customer response was actually being reflected in any specific way, such as in indirect sales or even a quantified numbers of customers.

Instead, Microsoft's Panos Panay stated that the company is "working with our retail partners who are currently out of stock of the 128GB Surface Pro to replenish supplies as quickly as possible."

However, nearly all of the readers commenting on the blog posting noted frustrating launch day experiences that included observations such as, "the Best Buy employee told us they only had a single Surface Pro for sale and it was the 64 GB version," and "most stores received only a couple of units. My local Staples got 1 unit (64 GB), Best Buy got 7 (4 64 GB, 3 128GB) all available only to the folks who reserved one. I was the first in line today at BBY and didn't get anything. This is a complete disappointment and failure. You guys suck."

Windows Enthusiasts take the news as a net positive

In response to the news of sell outs, leading Windows blogger and prolific book author Paul Thurrott wrote that "[Microsoft's] critics will be disappointed to discover that Surface Pro is in fact flying off the shelves, at the least the 128 GB version."

Those who show up at Microsoft retail store locations are reporting 'Apple-like' lines.Thurrott added that "those who show up at Microsoft retail store locations are reporting 'Apple-like' lines."

Thurrott was alluding to the blocks-long queues that formed around the globe at the launch of Apple's original iPhone and at subsequent launches, including the latest iPhone 5 (pictured below in New York City).


Microsoft's selling out of Surface Pro inventory means “the market has spoken,” wrote Ed Bott of ZDNet.

After being reminded that the ARM-based Surface RT version of Microsoft's new tablet/notebook hybrid had also “sold out” before becoming a clear flop during the winter quarter, Bott issued a clarification to explain why readers shouldn’t connect the dots and arrive at the conclusion that the Surface Pro selling out might not be an indication that it is actually selling well.

The fact that the low end model of the Surface RT sold out “suggests that buyers of the RT device were price-sensitive and were looking for something with a tablet-like price,” Bott answered. “By contrast, the initial sell-out of the higher-priced 128 GB Surface Pro suggests early buyers are spec-sensitive and are skeptical of the available storage in the 64 GB device.”

This all happened before

Reports of inventory "sell outs" is not new, and certainly not for Microsoft. In 2009, the firm's Zune HD music player was widely reported to have “sold out” from resellers ranging from Amazon to Newegg to BestBuy. Two years later it was discontinued because in reality it had never sold very well.

Microsoft sells out of Zune HD

Other devices that were reported by major news sources as having “sold out” include another flop from 2009: the WebOS Palm Pre. In fact, a number of major consumer electronics product disasters have hit the market with an initial splash that generated reports of having "sold out" of initial inventory.

Last fall, several Windows Phone 8 models “sold out,” alongside “sold out” sales of Google’s blockbuster dud, the Nexus Q. Sony’s flop, the PS Vita, was also reported to have “sold out” among some retailers.

Google also “sold out” of the Nexus 4 last fall, before it was deduced from serial numbers that it had only actually produced just 400,000 units of it over the entire quarter. Shockingly, you can “sell out” of a device just by not producing very many of them.

Remember RIM? The company was reported to have “sold out” of its Blackberry Bold in late 2011, just years after the company had lost all relevance in the smartphone industry. Unsurprisingly, the new Blackberry Z10 is currently reported to have “sold out” in the UK.

Apple observers see inventory shortages as a failure

In contrast, Apple's inability to forecast demand for various products has resulted in criticism, rather than hopeful celebration. Apple has flubbed its production and shipments on several occasions, struggling to meet demand with capacity. In 2010, the company announced a white version of iPhone 4 that it subsequently failed to deliver for months due to production issues.

In the most recent winter quarter, Apple failed to bring its new slim iMac to market as soon as it had planned, missing most of the quarter and leaving it with 700,000 fewer iMac sales than in the year ago quarter. It also didn’t accurately forecast the demand for either iPhone 4 or iPhone 5. On top of that, the company it couldn’t produce iPads fast enough to meet demand.

Apple's shares were crushed by investors after the company reported its inventory sell outs and missed sales numbers over the important sales quarter.