Microsoft - Surface 2.0 - Black - Chart - Comparison

In a bit of a surprise move, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has announced the Surface line of tablets will only be sold through the company's own retail stores and online site.

When Microsoft announced the Surface tablets last month, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the company's official entrance into the tablet market as opposed to it being all third-party vendors.  However, with that excitement came a lot of comments about people wanting to see one in person to try it out before committing to buy one.  Seeing as the RT version is rumored to sell for $599, and the Pro version for a cool $1,000, this makes total sense from a consumer standpoint.

Unfortunately for those of you wishing to get a little bit of hands-on time with the Surface before you purchase it, your opportunities to do so are going to be fairly limited.

Speaking to CRN during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference recently, company CEO Steve Ballmer dropped the bombshell that the Surface tablets will be sold only in the company's retail stores and through its online site.  For the time being, consumers won't be able to walk into the likes of a Best Buy and check these out, and vendors won't be able to sell them to their Enterprise customers.  Ballmer said there would still be some options for those situations.

If a partner says, 'Hey look I want to sell some of these things. I want to put them in solutions,' they can order some off and sell them. There is nothing that gets in the way of that. But, we have not set up what I would call industrial distribution as sort of a first element. We may get there.

It looks like if you want to try out a Windows 8 tablet when the devices launch this fall, you'll need to rely on trying one of the models offered by a company such as HP unless you happen to live near one of the limited number of Microsoft retail stores.

[via CRN]