Microsoft Surface Debut 'Modest': Ballmer (Update 1)

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Microsoft's clarification of the "modest" Surface RT debut has been added to this story.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Microsoft's(MSFT) new Surface tablet has had a "modest" debut, according to the software giant's CEO Steve Ballmer.

Speaking during an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien, the Microsoft chief reportedly attributed the slow Surface start to limited availability on the company's online retail site and a few U.S. Microsoft stores.

A Microsoft spokesperson was keen to tell TheStreet that Ballmer's comments referred to the firm's tablet ramp, as opposed to weak customer demand.

"When asked about Surface, Steve's use of the term "modest" was in relation to the company's approach in ramping up supply and distribution of Surface with Windows RT, which has only been available via our online store and Microsoft retail and holiday stores in the U.S. and Canada," she wrote, in an email. "While our approach has been modest, Steve notes the reception to the device has been 'fantastic' which is why he also stated that 'soon, it will be available in more countries and in more stores'."

A key weapon in Microsoft's battle with Apple's(AAPL) iPad and the slew of Google(GOOG) Android tablets, the first members of the Surface family, running Windows RT, made their debut last month on the same day that Microsoft launched its new Windows 8 operating system.

Microsoft began selling the ARM(ARMH) -processor-based Surface RT tablets in late October, but plans to launch a more advanced Intel(INTC) -powered version of the device, running Windows 8, in early 2013. Ballmer described the new tablet as a "top of the range" version of the product, which also offers a higher-definition screen, during his interview with Le Parisien.

Ballmer also said that Microsoft sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades in the three days following its launch.

Microsoft shares dipped 1.86% to $28.30 in Monday trading.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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