Software giant, Microsoft, has dumped its online only retail strategy for its iPad challenger, Microsoft Surface tablet, in a bid to get sales moving.

Australians can only currently buy the tablet online.

According to the Australian Financial Review (AFR), the consumer version of the tablet will be in Harvey Norman Holdings (ASX: HVN) stores from Friday 14th December. That will allow consumers to compare the device with Apple’s iPad and Android tablets already on display.

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One US broker revised down its sales forecasts of 2-3 million tablets to less than a million, and said the lack of distribution was ‘killing it’.

With most other tablets and Apple’s iPads available in retail stores, it didn’t really make sense for Microsoft to make its tablet invisible to people browsing in-store. People want to see it first-hand, and touch and feel it, something they can’t do online.

It’s likely that the Surface will be available in other retailers like JB Hi-Fi Limited (ASX: JBH), Bing Lee, The Good Guys, Myer Holdings (ASX: MYR) and David Jones Limited (ASX: DJS) within the next week, but may be too late to make the most of pre-Christmas sales.

With Microsoft experiencing unprecedented competition in many of its markets, the company may be pinning its hopes on the Surface tablet and its new Windows 8 operating system. Although, according to the AFR, early signs are worrying. Local businesses are ignoring Windows 8 as Windows 7 remains their preferred platform because it’s proven, and is not a radical change from previous Microsoft operating systems.

Windows 8 is a brand new design, featuring a completely redesigned interface, with no Start button. That may put off businesses from upgrading as they would then need to re-train staff in how to use the new operating system.

The Foolish bottom line

It goes to show that there will likely always be a need for bricks-and-mortar stores. Until someone can devise a way for consumers to use more than one sense to ‘look’ at products online that is.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in David Jones and JB Hi-Fi. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to help the world invest, better. Take Stock is The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. Click here now to request your free subscription, whilst it’s still available. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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