Microsoft (MSFT) announced Monday it will begin selling its Surface Pro tablets to consumers on Feb. 9.
The Surface Pro tablet will retail for $899. It offers a faster processor and greater power than its sister Surface RT tablet (which sells for half the price). Microsoft entered the tablet market in October 2012 – about 2.5 years after Apple (AAPL) debuted its iPad.
Microsoft will report sales of its tablets on Thursday when the Seattle-based company releases fourth-quarter earnings. According to Wall Street estimates, sales may be lackluster.
UBS analyst Brent Thill told The New York Times he slashed his Q4 Surface sales forecast by half; he’s now expecting sales to total 1 million, down from 2 million. In comparison, Apple reported last November that it sold 3 million fourth-generation iPads in three days after the product’s launch.
Microsoft definitely faces an uphill battle in the tablet market. Consumers can choose from a diverse array of tablets including Barnes & Noble’s (BKS) Nook, Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle, the HP (HPQ) Envy, the Archos 101 G9, Acer Iconia Tab, Samsung Galaxy, Blackberry Playbook (RIMM) and the Google (GOOG) Nexus 7.
Josh Brown, vice president of Fusion Analytics and author of the widely read “The Reformed Broker” blog, says Microsoft has no business being in the hardware business.
“The public is not clamoring for a Microsoft products,” he says in an interview with The Daily Ticker. “I don’t know if the Surface launch accomplished anything other than ‘hey we’re in this business now.’”
Brown advises against owning shares of Microsoft and says only a leadership change at the upper echelon of the Microsoft corporate ladder – including the departure of CEO Steve Ballmer – would be the catalyst to push the stock higher.
Reports that Microsoft may provide capital for a deal that would take computer maker Dell (DELL) private could be seen as a veiled attempt by Microsoft to boost sales of its Windows operating platform. Dell has been a long-time partner and supporter of Microsoft as well as an important source of Microsoft’s profits.
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