In the absence of actual sales figures from Microsoft for its new Surface RT tablet, a bunch of stories are making the rounds this morning based on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s comment to a French newspaper that the new tablet is “starting modestly.”

The problem is that Ballmer wasn’t referring to sales, but to the company’s approach in starting with limited initial distribution of Surface RT in the company’s online store and its U.S. retail stores. This isn’t a surprise, so it’s a stretch to call it an admission that Surface isn’t an instant hit.

Ballmer actually says that the reception to the device has been “fantastic” and notes that “soon, it will be available in more countries and in more stores.”

For better or worse, we probably won’t know the actual numbers until early next year, when Microsoft reports its results and the quarterly PC and tablet sales numbers come out from the major research firms.

Ballmer points to the release early next year of Surface for Windows 8 Pro as an upcoming milestone. That device will run legacy Windows applications but cost more (pricing hasn’t yet been announced) and also weigh 2 pounds, compared with the 1.5 pound Surface RT.

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  • Guest

    Thank you for the clarification. So many negative men see Mr. Ballmer being less than, shall we say, “exuberant” and assume that the Sky is Falling. It isn’t. In fact, it’s bluer than ever.

  • guest

    While I would be surprised if Steve said anything other than, “Fantastic” when asked about sales (understatement is certainly not his style). I have not seen this clarification reported anywhere, else, so perhaps you should cite your source, Todd.

  • Extended Results, In

    Just purchased 6 Surface units for my managers today to replace their iPads. We are pretty happy about them.

  • GeekWire Fan

    Whenever Microsoft has good or great sales of a device (Xbox and Surface), they release the sales numbers. Whenever they have low sales of a product (Windows Phone and Surface), they don’t release the sales numbers. There is no evidence that the Surface will break into the tablet market, and so far evidence only shows it will be about the same as the Windows Phone has in the smartphone space, which is 1% marketshare.

  • Trey Picou

    But taking “modest start” out of context makes for much better journalism…I mean article traffic.

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