Should Microsoft Fret Surface RT's High Return Rate?

History will ultimately tell us whether or not Microsoft's Surface tablet strategy was a sound one, but for now, we don't have the benefit of time and hindsight. In their absence, we have to rely on data and analysis from market research firms (as well as our own impressions), and it just so happens that IHS iSuppli has some interesting figures on Surface RT.

Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, told CNet that Microsoft has shipped about 1.25 million Surface RT tablets into the channel, but sales are "significantly lower," perhaps as low as 55 or 60 percent of total shipments. That works out to between 680,000 and 750,000 Surface RT sales.

Surface RT

Compared to Apple's iPad sales, Surface RT isn't even close, but that's true of every manufacturer, Alexander says, adding that Microsoft's sales percentage isn't necessarily unusual and is in line with some newer Android tablets.

Surface RT also faces a "very high" return rate, and if you combine that with the low sell-through rate, Alexander says that's "indicative of a problem." However, Alexander points out that Amazon's Kindle Fire also suffered high return rates and low sell-through in the beginning, and it's gone on to become one of the best selling tablets on the market.

In other words, Surface RT is definitely going through some growing pains at the moment, but for now, it's nothing out of the ordinary.