Microsoft CEO says Surface sales starting ‘modestly’

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New tablet available online and in a few retail outlets in the U.S.

Sales of Microsoft Corp.’s tablet Surface “are starting modestly,” said the company’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in an interview with French daily Le Parisien published Saturday, adding that this is due to Surface only being available online and in a few Microsoft stores in the U.S.

Mr. Ballmer declined to give exact figures for sales of Microsoft’s 1 1/2-pound tablet computer, introduced Oct. 26 to compete with Apple Inc.’s highly successful iPad.

Asked about supply shortages of Surface, Mr. Ballmer said:”It’s a good sign,” adding that Microsoft “will fix this problem quickly” and that the increase in capacity is part of the company’s strategy.

The CEO also said that in the three months following Surface’s launch, Microsoft plans to offer a high-end version of its tablet equipped with Intel Corp.’s new processor and a higher-definition screen.