Selling out on launch day isn’t exciting, it’s expected

Guess what? Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet sold out on launch day. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be.

No, I’m not suggesting the Surface Pro is such an awesome tablet that you should have expected it to sell out. That may or may not be true, but the reality is that selling out on launch day is required. It’s simply table stakes for playing the game.

I also don’t have any proof that Microsoft intentionally restricted the supply of the Surface Pro tablets to create the situation. Microsoft claims it is doing its best to catch up with demand and ship more units to retailers that need them. Both the 128GB and 64GB Surface Pros were sold out, but the 64GB model is available again online in the Microsoft Store as of this morning.

There are products where demand exceeds supply–that literally sell out because the vendor simply can’t produce units fast enough to keep up with sales. But, businesses and consumers have come to expect a launch day “sell out” for new technology. Anything less would be considered a failure. So, vendors go out of their way to create a false perception of demand by limiting the launch day supply to ensure the product sells out.

The practice is not new. Any company would prefer to make headlines for a selling out of a product on launch day rather than making headlines for a lukewarm reception with plenty of units still to be had. One perpetuates a sense that this is a hot product that others should investigate to learn more about what all the excitement is about, while the other induces yawns.

The bottom line is that without actual sales figures to put things in context, it’s all just meaningless marketing hype. We can’t be sure if Microsoft sold a thousand units, or ten thousand units, or a million units. We have no way to quantify or compare the launch day stats of the Surface Pro against rival devices like the Apple iPad or Amazon Kindle Fire. We have no perspective from which to determine whether selling out on launch day is actually impressive, or really just sad.

Companies need to be more transparent about the actual sales figures if they want to remain credible, or earn any respect for “selling out” on launch day. We don’t care that you “sold out”, and we don’t care how many units have been “shipped”. Tell us how many people actually spent their hard-earned money to purchase your product. Anything else is irrelevant hype.

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