Microsoft’s Surface is the shining star of an otherwise dismal earnings report

Microsoft Surface 3 front angle
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
I’m not a fan of Microsoft’s Surface line. My review of the original declared “it fails to solve any problem for any user,” and frankly, my view hasn’t changed much since then. Yet it clearly has fans, as evident from the comments received whenever I trot out my opinion. Surface users are the most militant owners this side of the console flame-wars.

And their ranks seem to be growing. Microsoft’s fourth-quarter 2015 earnings call was extremely negative not only because of a massive write-off related to the purchase of Nokia, but also because of slow consumer sales of Windows and Office. Yet the Surface line shone brilliantly, racking up $888 million in revenue. That’s a 117-percent surge over the previous year. Revenue for the entire year was 3.6 billion, up 65 percent over 2014 as a whole.

What these numbers mean is obvious. The Surface line is finally, after a few false starts, beginning to catch on. This doesn’t mean the line is on the verge of becoming a common household appliance – Apple’s Mac line brought in six times the revenue over the same quarter – but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Microsoft looks set to continue this expansion over the rest of 2015. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4, which was rumored for debut at BUILD 2015 in late April but failed to make an appearance, is now speculated to hit stores before year end. Microsoft is also set to expand its re-seller program substantially, growing from just 150 retailers to over 4,500 by 2016. More sellers will likely mean greater consumer attention.

I have to admit I’m surprised at the success of Surface. Aside from my personal reservations about the quality of the device, it seemed unlikely that Microsoft would be able to keep up support for it long-term. The company has a history of embarking on, and then abandoning, ambitious projects, yet it has seen the Surface through despite a troubled start – and it’s now reaping the rewards. Maybe Microsoft is changing, after all?

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