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For the past 9 months, Microsoft has lost $300 million on Surface

Microsoft’s first generation of Surface tablets wasn’t exactly a “winner” in the marketplace. Microsoft launched the Surface RT (which featured an ARM processor and an ARM-based fork of Windows) in October 2012 and Surface Pro (which featured a more traditional x86 processor and Windows 8) in early 2013. However, neither tablet line resonated well with consumers and Microsoft took a $900 million charge on unsold inventory in July 2013.
Microsoft tried again with the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, but a recent report from Computerworld suggests that even though sales are increasing, losses continue to mount for Surface. According to a 10-Q filed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the first quarter of 2014 saw Microsoft generate $494 million in revenue from its Surface tablets. While this was a healthy 50 percent gain from the same period a year ago, it was down roughly 45 percent compared to Q4 2013.

Surface 2

However, the most troubling find was that the actual cost of revenue for Surface came in higher at $539 million, making for a $45 million shortfall. This was a 15 percent larger loss than Microsoft witnessed in Q4 2013.
For the past three quarters, Microsoft lost a total of $300 million on its Surface business.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, the more Surface tablets it sells, the more money it loses on the hardware. And the fact that Microsoft often deeply discounts Surface tablets for consumers — as witnessed by a recent promotion where Microsoft is offering a 10% discount for teachers and students in addition to a $100 bonus discount — shows that the losses will likely continue to mount as Microsoft tries to lure customers away from Apple and Samsung in the tablet market.

Sources: Computerworld, Microsoft's 10-Q filing

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So the trend looks okay
By sheh on 4/30/2014 9:36:43 AM , Rating: 4
They're trying to enter a market with strong existing players. If the trend continues they might make profit in a year or two.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By NellyFromMA on 4/30/2014 9:59:58 AM , Rating: 2
My thoughts exactly. MS takes virtually the same approach in all of its new market entry endevours. Enter at a loss, go through a couple of revs sustaining those losses, and cross into profit gain territory.

It does take a few generations, but time and time again this has worked for them. Xbox is a great example.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By Mitch101 on 4/30/2014 10:40:57 AM , Rating: 2
Im curious to see how Microsoft making the OS free to devices with screens smaller than 9" plays out.

Someone ideally could offer an HDMI or Miracast option on the device for larger output but keep the screen at 9" for portability.

Windows is now free for mobile devices under 9 inches, is this the right move for Microsoft?

Ultimately I think when they reach Windows Mobile 9 things will start to happen quicker or when x86 devices hit the sweet spot of under $300.00

RE: So the trend looks okay
By NellyFromMA on 4/30/2014 12:40:25 PM , Rating: 2
Windows is now free for mobile devices under 9 inches, is this the right move for Microsoft?

That's probably the million dollar question when regarding MS longevity.

I think its a smart choice now as essentially they will bleed out to stave-off Google profit model in a tit-for-tat manner that Google offers MS competing services for free and at a loss seemingly solely for the purpose of agitating MS as market gains in those areas aren't really appreciable.

Google simply accepts the loss on the presumption that these actions cost MS more than they cost Google, which I'm personally skeptical on as a mid-to-long term strategy and its also disruptive to the market as a whole without any clear gain for the industry in the mid-to-long term. And that indirectly harms consumers as well which is a big reason why I heavily scrutinize any Google offering.

For MS, in the mid-to-long term, I'm not sure they will always as a rule not license their software on devices smaller than 9". MS has a history (for better or worse) of being free to make its own decisions as the situation allows. This is something that upsets a vocal minority of consumers but is also probably the reason is one of the most versatile corporations in America today. Good business make tough choices in a calculated manner. Whether that means they will revert back to licensing the software on smaller form factors remains a mystery. My guess is that when MS can reasonably entertain that questions a lot of time will have passed and the landscape the decision will be based on will be different enough that its unpredictable today.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By name99 on 4/30/2014 11:47:25 AM , Rating: 1
Uhh, WHEN has it worked for them?
As far as we know Xbox still has not actually made a cumulative profit. Bing has not made profit (nor has Hotmail). all those weird things they did in the late 90s (like MS TV, Spot watch) did not make a profit. Zune? Kin? Win Phone? Skype?

MS makes profit on Windows and Office. Everything else they touch turns to garbage.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By Argon18 on 4/30/14, Rating: -1
RE: So the trend looks okay
By themaster08 on 4/30/2014 1:11:58 PM , Rating: 2
Office and Windows are the only two money makers for Microsoft.
Nothing else they do is profitable.
If you cared to do even the slightest amount of research before posting such inaccurate drivel, then you would know that Microsoft has 16 billion-dollar businesses, most of which are very profitable:

Windows Server
Office (client)
SQL Server
System Center
Visual Studio
Dynamics (CRM and ERP)
Online Advertising (search and display both)
Office 365
Client-access license (CAL) suites
Enterprise Services (including consulting)
Enterprise communication business (Exchange plus Lync) sses-an-updated-list-7000019346/

Ignoring the truth doesn't make it go away.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By name99 on 4/30/2014 2:13:09 PM , Rating: 3
(a) You do understand the difference between Revenue and Profit, don't you? The fact that Xbox is a billion dollar business does not tell us either whether it made money this year or even if it did, whether the total revenue since the business began covers the losses.

The same goes for the online advertising stuff (including Dynamics).

(b) It's not exactly disproving my point that Office+ SharePoint + Office 365 are all what I call Office, likewise Windows, Server, SQL, Azure and Dev Studio are all what I would call Windows.
God knows what CAL suites are and how they differ from standard Windows/Office licensing.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By themaster08 on 4/30/2014 3:43:42 PM , Rating: 2
The fact that Xbox is a billion dollar business does not tell us either whether it made money this year or even if it did, whether the total revenue since the business began covers the losses.
Hence the reason I didn't specify the profitability of each of those businesses. My point was that Microsoft has multi-billion dollar businesses beyond Windows and Office.

It's not exactly disproving my point that Office+ SharePoint + Office 365 are all what I call Office, likewise Windows, Server, SQL, Azure and Dev Studio are all what I would call Windows.
Categorise each of these businesses in whatever way you please. I could easily say that Google search + YouTube + Gmail + Android are what I would call Advertising, but that simply isn't true. Whilst all of these divisions profit from Advertising, they are different businesses leveraged from the same underlying platform.

God knows what CAL suites are and how they differ from standard Windows/Office licensing.
Terminal services licensing, SQL Server CALs, Server CAL licensing (user and device). These are separate to traditional Windows and Office licenses and are purchased by Enterprise customers.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By Milliamp on 5/1/2014 12:31:59 PM , Rating: 1
You even quoted him saying this in your post:

Office and Windows are the only two money makers for Microsoft.
Nothing else they do is profitable.

You then continued to list revenue only. His point about profitability still stands and you failed to debunk it with facts. Many of those businesses with a billion or more in revenue likely operate at a loss.

Besides Office and Windows what else is profitable? I'm reading a forbes article titled "Microsoft Should Consider Getting Out of Gaming" so certainly not Xbox with is one of their biggest and most successful products outside Office and Windows.

His central point on Office and Windows profitability still stands.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By nikon133 on 5/2/2014 7:40:47 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think so. His central point is just an opinion, no hard numbers to support it. d-2013/

Much as I can see, all MS divisions, save for online services, are operating in plus.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By NellyFromMA on 4/30/2014 12:47:34 PM , Rating: 2
Gains and profit are two different things. They have repeatedly made gains in marketshare for Bing, Xbox, Windows Phone, Surface.

Those gains, generation-over-generation are what leads to profit. I'm all but positive MS will sell Bing as its really a great buy for a company that wants to focus just on internet search.

By your logic, Google's tactics are just bad. Their profit model is that much less diverse. Ads. Period.

No, not all of MS endevours are successful, but they have survived all of that and some. Also, profit can be realized when a competitor is staved off on a tactical effort to chip away at your core products or other profit sources. In that way, Bing, Xbox, and seemingly Surface too will be successes. It's all about the big picture, hence my assessment of the big picture.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By drothgery on 4/30/2014 1:42:02 PM , Rating: 3
The infrastructure behind Bing is very important to Azure. Azure is a huge, fast-growing, profitable business for MS.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By name99 on 4/30/2014 2:16:43 PM , Rating: 1
How do you know that Azure is profitable? MS has never released that information. All they have released is an extremely obfuscated claim that Azure has made $1 billion in sales --- but that billion comes with a large asterisk as to exactly what was sold for that billion. (Hint -- at least part of it was OTHER non-Azure software that was included in the package deal.)

RE: So the trend looks okay
By w8gaming on 4/30/2014 11:39:18 AM , Rating: 2
There is no alternative than simply to suffer loss and tries to squeeze in at this point of time. The biggest challenge of Microsoft continue to be Android really, not iPad. It is difficult to fight with cheap devices like Android tablets which is controlling the majority of the market share, a very lethal combination. If there has been no Android tablets, with only iPad as competitor Microsoft would have found it much easier to compete, as it will be much easier to undercut Apple 30%-40% margin, than to try to undercut the razor thin margin of the Android offerings. Despite beliefs from many, price is a very important factor.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By Argon18 on 4/30/14, Rating: -1
RE: So the trend looks okay
By atechfan on 4/30/2014 5:40:36 PM , Rating: 3
There were MS powered handhelds before Google even existed. Not sure how they copied anyone in the tablet market.

RE: So the trend looks okay
By Drafter on 5/1/2014 8:51:56 PM , Rating: 2
They still haven't corrected the key issues with their surface tablet... a little bit too unwieldy to be a great tablet and not really designed well to be a great notebook.

What they need to do is revise the form factor to be thinner and lighter so that it becomes a full fledged power tablet. They had this opportunity with the introduction of Haswell but they didn't go for it. They need to design a hinged keyboard base that will keep it erect without the rear flap which people obviously see as a poor way to keep it propped up when place on your lap... I'm thinking of something similar to a Lenovo Thinkpad Helix but thinner, lighter and with insane battery life.

I ended up settling with a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga with digitizer and pen. It's a really nice piece of kit for doing business and the 12.5" screen is much preferred to the Surfaces 10.6" screen.

But I really don't like Windows 8 and this is where win8 tablets are failing in my opinion. Even after the 8.1 update, it's still a very confused operating system... halfway usable in tablet mode + halfway usable in desktop mode = full failure to make an intuitive and cohesive user interface. I'm unable to find properly developed core functionally apps that work really well in touch mode to replace what I need in desktop mode. I'm leaning back towards full desktop mode the more I use it and I'm beginning to dismiss the metro interface as a glorified start menu.

I did in fact own a Gateway computer back in the day that ran Windows ME. Perhaps I had the correct hardware configuration so there were no issues for me... I preferred Windows Me to Windows 8.

The loss has to be in advertising
By tviceman on 4/30/2014 9:26:15 AM , Rating: 3
There is no way the build-of-materials exceeds the costs Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro. I remember when the original Surface RT came out, the BOM was estimated at slightly under $300.The losses have to be from all their commercials and other advertisements.

Regardless, Microsoft is learning that being late to a crowded party means it's tough to get in the door.

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By Brandon Hill on 4/30/2014 9:31:10 AM , Rating: 3
I haven't seen a Surface commercial since the original "snap" commercial when it launched back in '12.

By jeepga on 4/30/2014 11:47:35 PM , Rating: 2
I've seen online advertising including commercials on Hulu. I don't watch any other type of TV, so I cannot speak to that.

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By NellyFromMA on 4/30/2014 9:54:07 AM , Rating: 2
Um, doesn't this apply do Xbox also? I think most people would say Xbox is a successful brand and platform, leveraging its service and software sales on the platform for profits while losing money on the sales of the platform itself.

Funny how in one context its doomed and in the other its a hit.

Xbox was late to the party when compared to Sony and Nintendo, but a couple of generations in its the leader.

history seems like a decent indicator to me. Surface is great, and its an even bigger value if MS sells it to me at a loss. Hard to complain with that, why are you kicking dirt at them for?

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By Labotomizer on 4/30/2014 11:28:08 AM , Rating: 1
Which generation was the Xbox the leader in? I like Xbox and all but that's not really an accurate statement. 360/PS3/Wii generation the Wii ran away as the "winner". It made more than the other two consoles when you factor hardware and software/licensing fees.

This generation? PS4 is outselling the Xbox1 and neither seem all that compelling to me at this point.

I think your logic applies that MS is selling Surface at a loss because the services are more important to them long term.

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By NellyFromMA on 4/30/2014 12:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
Consumer perception is important too. Ask anyone who led the last console generation. If 1 in 10 said Wii, I'd be amazed.

Then ask developers the same, which no console manufacturer can succeed without. By far and large they made more money on the MS platform when they released software on multiple platforms.

I don't really follow what you mean regarding licensing fees. If this includes IP-related licensing, I don't know if I'd go down that route because then we'd have to broaden the spectrum further and assess patent licensing and who cross-consumers which patents at cost or no cost.

As for PS4 vs XboxOne, I don't disagree although its way to early to call out a leader, especially when software on both sides is utterly lack luster. I don't purchase one or the other at this time because it doesn't even seem that by Christmas there will but much of any compelling titles on either side to justify a purchase for me personally.

There is a huge supply-side concern on the Sony side due to its choice of GDDR5 memory, IIRC. So, whether they can sustain that growth in the next year, 2 years, or 5 is really an untold story. But, sure, in this cycle's infancy, PS4 is clearly ahead.

Wii-U, well, I think that won't even survive 2-3 years as virtually no one wants it, and those who have it don't praise it at all. No one will buy your console if devs shy away and the public perception is poor.

However, I am specifically assessing the full-picture from MS entry in this space up until now, as a whole. Generation-to-generation breakdown is good too of course, but I'm citing their market-penetration effectiveness spanning several generations.

After some thought though, I'd be really interested to see a source confirming Nintendo was last-gens profit leader in terms of bottom-line profit, or possibly in any context. I Googled quickly but couldn't confirm. Its an interesting assertion though. If you have any links that corroborate that, feel free to link.

Thanks for sharing.

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By Chaser on 4/30/14, Rating: 0
By NellyFromMA on 4/30/2014 12:41:10 PM , Rating: 2
I responded to a rare insightful thought, but hey, cry more.

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By wordsworm on 4/30/2014 1:58:41 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see the relevance.

If you like something with xbox, you must have an xbox to enjoy it. By contrast, the Surface does not have anything that another MS tablet doesn't.

My gf has a Surface, and there are a number of faults I find in it. Especially irritating is the soft keyboard which, if I were using it now, when you minimize it after making a comment, you must resize the window. Maybe that's a small thing... something one can deal with.

I like it better than the other tablets because it is a real Windows machine, and is easy to control and content is often better than it is on an Android system. There might be more apps on the Android, but I find them to often be trivial and rarely as good as they are on browser or as a real application.

I hope they keep trying. They are making a market for the tablet because no one else seems to really care. If they don't try, the consequences will be great. If they fail, it will be the same. But who doesn't struggle to stay afloat and relevant?

By Alexvrb on 4/30/2014 11:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
I think you're better off using the Modern UI on the Surface (and other tablets) most of the time. That applies to browsers, too. It works better for touch. If you're constantly using Explorer on a tablet (not sure why you'd do that more than necessary on a small touchscreen tablet), you need a Type Cover (preferably a Type Cover 2 - thinner, stronger, and backlit). They work with all models of Surface, too. Heck just get one anyway, they work well for Modern too plus it doubles as a protective cover.

Oh, and if it affects Surface, it affects other Windows tablets too. Seems kind of like a rare use case to me either way.

By retrospooty on 4/30/2014 10:09:33 AM , Rating: 2
At least its improving... The 1st year they lost $900 million, Now they are losing only $300 million in a 9 month period, so we can extract appx $400 million for the year. Within a few years it may only be losing $100 million.

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By BRB29 on 4/30/2014 11:46:46 AM , Rating: 2
MS sells a lot of their tablets through retailers. There's probably a 20% margin in there for retailers.

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By jnemesh on 4/30/2014 1:23:33 PM , Rating: 2
20%? You are DREAMING. Margins on tablets are next to nothing. I would be HIGHLY surprised if retailers were making more than 7 or 8%....and more likely, its 5% or less.

By hpglow on 4/30/2014 1:45:49 PM , Rating: 2
Depends on the size of retailer. I managed a small mom and pop store durring the 90's and after distributers got their cut many products had a $1 net profit. The employees were allowed to buy stuff at cost and since I signed many of the invoices I can verify things like a Sony PS1 came in after shipping costs $2 below invoice and after rent and payroll it was a net loss. We would pressure suppliers and distributers every month and their response was to sell higher margin services/products to offset business (ie service plans, used games and movies).

RE: The loss has to be in advertising
By hpglow on 4/30/2014 1:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
There is no way MS is loosing money on the Surface Pro 2s. My wife spent $1300 on one and if anyone else had made it the price would have been $1000 to $1100 given an equal build and materials. Then she put down another $140 on a type cover and that was the sale price at the time. I would venture to guess most buyers purchase these covers at an addional proffit to MS. I think other than the ARM based surface tablets, none of the haswell Pros have any chance of being sold at a loss. This article referenced is just a ploy for advertisement revenue unless there is a block of solid gold embeded in every surface.

By hpglow on 4/30/2014 1:35:23 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry and to address MS's filing I'm guessing they are shifting money losses away from something else to keep investors off their backs.

By Manch on 4/30/2014 9:30:29 AM , Rating: 2
I bought a Gen 1 Surface Pro for $599 which is a very good deal. I like it a lot. Using it now in fact. If they had brought out a bay trail Surface instead of another RT version I would have bought that instead.

RE: BaytrailSurface
By NellyFromMA on 4/30/2014 9:55:53 AM , Rating: 2
I got one as a Christmas present from the workplace and its REALLY cool and convenient. Love the ability to dock and use it as a straight notebook as usage changes. Very versatile piece of kit, it will really come into its own as a tablet when the weight drops a bit which is inevitable.

RE: BaytrailSurface
By kleinma on 4/30/2014 10:16:44 AM , Rating: 2
I have a surface pro one, and every single person I have ever showed it to thought it was awesome. Some didn't even realize it was windows 8 until they asked or I told them and then they would say "oh I heard windows 8 was terrible", to which I would say "did what I just showed you look terrible?".

The biggest issue with the surface keeping the masses away is the price. Personally I think the price point is pretty much right on when you compare to ultrabooks, but people tend to compare to iPads.

I would never want a tablet type device like this without having a digitizer pen now that I have owned one. So it has spoiled me into a smaller market of devices.

RE: BaytrailSurface
By GotThumbs on 4/30/2014 10:40:22 AM , Rating: 5
Spot On!

The Surface Pro should never EVER be compared to an IPAD or Android based tablet. The Surface Pro is more aligned with Ultrabooks.

We have two SP1 and I just got my SP2 a couple of weeks ago. Went with 8 gigs of ram and 256Gb SSD. You won't see those kinds of specs on an IPAD or Android based tablet. Heck, you can't even get 8Gb of ram in Apple's AirBook.

My setup: Running full office, SQL Server 2008 Management Studio, Oracle Client 11g, and Toad for Oracle. Added a BT mouse and this device has replaced both my Dell laptop and Motorola Xoom tablet.

Convenience of a touch screen tablet, but the power of an Ultra Book when I need it.

Choice is a good thing.

RE: BaytrailSurface
By kmmatney on 4/30/2014 11:57:09 AM , Rating: 2
I'd love to have a Surface Pro 2.....if work paid for it.

RE: BaytrailSurface
By kmmatney on 4/30/2014 11:55:55 AM , Rating: 2
Besides getting price compared to iPads, it is also competing against cheap laptops (same as ultrabooks). I like the idea, but I still need a larger screen on the road to get work done. When screen sizes hit 13-14 inch, then it will get interesting for more people.

RE: BaytrailSurface
By Reclaimer77 on 4/30/2014 2:55:26 PM , Rating: 1
You know most people have better manners than to be actually honest when someone asks them a question like that.

You guys know I hate Apple products, and you also probably think I'm a jerk, but when someone shows me their iDevice I don't go into a tirade about what I really think of Apple. I just go "oh that's nice" or something, whatever, just to get out of the convo.

Most people don't really want to know how you feel about something. They just want you to agree with them.

RE: BaytrailSurface
By jeepga on 4/30/2014 11:53:43 PM , Rating: 2
I have a Surface Pro 2. I love it!

The ability to go from tablet mode on a plane where I'm reading Kindle or the news (offline mode), using the pen to do some design work, or flipping over the keyboard and firing up Visual Studio is just far too good of a utility.

It's really a shame they haven't exploded on the market, because they deserve to.

Bad Experience With Surface
By mgilbert on 4/30/2014 10:07:04 AM , Rating: 4
I bought one of the original Surface tablets when they went on sale a few months ago, and wound up returning it. It was fine for running Windows 8 touch apps, but I found so few of those that did what I needed to do, that I wound up having to do everything with native, full Windows applications. And the stylus was so inaccurate as to be unusable, despite multiple, detailed attempts to calibrate it. Trying to do any real work on the Surface was an effort in extreme futility and frustration. You shouldn't have to fight a device's flaws to get things done.

I gave up and did something I swore I would never do, and bought an iPad. It works perfectly, and there are apps for everything I want to do, and the touch system is so accurate I can use it on even complex apps with lots of small elements, such as spreadsheets. I use it so much that I rarely turn on my PC anymore.

RE: Bad Experience With Surface
By invidious on 4/30/2014 12:01:24 PM , Rating: 3
If you are comparing the iPad to a Surface RT it’s not surprising that the iPad gave you a more streamlined experience, its’ a more mature product with larger user and developer communities.

There really isn't a compelling reason to get a Surface RT at the moment. But if you swore that you would never buy an iPad it's odd that you jump right from Surface RT to an iPad instead of an Android tablet. Android tablets are a mature platform at this point and offer everything that iPads offer in a wider variety of configurations and price points.

Kill Surface 2 long live Surface Pro 2
By Gunbuster on 4/30/2014 12:55:01 PM , Rating: 2
They need to kill the arm Surface RT \ Surface 2

Who on earth would anyone pay $450 for a crippled arm windows tablet when you can get a Dell Venue 8 Pro for $160 with full X86 compatibility.

RE: Kill Surface 2 long live Surface Pro 2
By zzynko on 4/30/2014 6:04:56 PM , Rating: 2
Have you ever heard the phrase "choice is a good thing" ...?

By Gunbuster on 5/1/2014 10:14:00 AM , Rating: 2
Okay so why did I choose a venue 8 pro from Dell?

Choice is great and Microsoft for whatever reason has chosen to continue making an ARM tablet that costs $450 while their partner Dell has an X86 tablet for $160 running full Windows 8.1 with office as well.

They need to more agile and responsive to the market.

Jack of all trades and a master of none
By tayb on 4/30/2014 12:34:30 PM , Rating: 2
I bought a Surface Pro at Best Buy for $499. The 128GB model. Great deal. Problem is that is the only price I would have considered.

I really like the Surface Pro, it is an incredible device with a ton of cool features... but it doesn't do any one thing excellent. It is slower than my notebook, heavier than my tablet, and has poor battery life.

At $999 I can see the value in that it can theoretically replace my notebook and tablet but in reality it is inferior to both in separate ways. I would personally rather spend $800 on a powerful notebook and and $230 on a Nexus 7.

By StevoLincolnite on 4/30/2014 7:12:16 PM , Rating: 2
I have had a single core Intel Atom convertible Tablet/Netbook for years now.
I've been eying off the surface for awhile now, the only showstopper though for me is the price. :(

Stop the Presses!!
By atechfan on 4/30/2014 5:47:24 PM , Rating: 2
While this was a healthy 50 percent gain from the same period a year ago, it was down roughly 45 percent compared to Q4 2013.

The quarter following the Christmas shopping season had reduced revenue!!! How could this happen?

RE: Stop the Presses!!
By w8gaming on 5/1/2014 6:01:57 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft has been offering sales on Surface during the last quarter. The margin is a lot smaller now.

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