Microsoft Surface RT returns may signal problem with operating system

Microsoft’s first tablet, the Surface RT, is undeniably a pretty cool piece of hardware. However it seems that there’s something that might be stopping people from running out to get one – and prompting others to return it.

In an interview with CNET, Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at iSuppli, said that the number of Surface RT tablets being purchased is only at about 55 to 60 per cent of the number that have been shipped out to stores. That means that of the 1.25 million Surface RTs available through the Microsoft Store online and in brick-and-mortar locations, as well as Staples and Best Buy stores, roughly 680,000 to 750,000 have actually been purchased.

[ Related: What people have to say about the Windows Surface RT ]

While Alexander says that she has seen those types of figures before, such as with the launch of new Android devices, she has noticed another interesting trend: while she wouldn’t give a specific number, Alexander says the return rate was “very high.”

“If you put the high return rate together with low sell-through [sales out ] rate, that’s indicative of a problem,” Alexander said.

Alexander went on to speculate that the challenges many have had with learning the new Windows 8 operating system could be at least partially to blame.

“It seems to be linked in a lot of cases to a steep learning curve of the OS – which is not necessarily intuitive.”

As PC World points out, Alexander’s assessment of a higher than usual return rate is “a highly educated guesstimate, not gospel,” it isn’t a stretch to think that Alexander might be on the money with her reasoning why people aren’t keeping the Surface RT. Windows 8 has had a bit of a rough start since its launch in October, as the new ‘Metro’ interface hasn’t been exactly intuitive.

[ Related: Windows 8 launches with a bang, but will users get it? ]

At its launch, the new look often had people confused, as videos that appeared online showed. The Surface tablet doesn’t run Windows 8 in full, instead running a tablet variation called Windows RT, but as the interface is largely the same, it leads to a lot of the same confusion.

And those similarities without actually being the same operating system are problematic, too. PC World says that Microsoft has successfully gotten the word out on Windows RT, but has been a lot less clear on clarifying how the tablet version of the operating system differs from the desktop version.

To compound the issue, the Microsoft Surface RT is one of the pricier tablets currently on the market. At $619 CAD for the 32GB model with the almost mandatory touch cover, it’s a lot of money for someone to spend on a device that is frustrating and time-consuming to learn. When the more expensive Microsoft Surface Pro tablet launches later this month, we should get an even clearer idea why people aren’t snapping up the tablets like Microsoft wants.

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