According to today's Surface blog the six countries are Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan. The Surface Pro and Surface RT will be available there "in the coming months."
[IN DEPTH: Microsoft's Surface for Windows 8 Pro
TEST YOURSELF: The Windows 8 quiz
NAVIGATE: 12 essential Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts]
With luck the supply of the machines will be better in these countries than it has been in the U.S. and Canada, where Microsoft has run out of Surface Pros twice. Microsoft hasn't spelled out the reasons for the shortages.
"We are focused on meeting demand in current markets for Surface Pro and are working super hard to get new inventory into retail but recognize demand exists in other countries as well," the blog post says. "We are committed to working with our retail partners to ensure we are delivering a great experience in the above mentioned countries for our customers."
"Microsoft is about to embark on a second wave of Windows 8 client hardware promotions and user education," according to a Computerworld article from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The story quotes Christopher Flores, director of communications for the Windows client division, who was interviewed at the show, where Microsoft is said to be keeping a low profile but meeting with partners off-site.
This new promotional wave might have something to do with the launch this week of Office 365, which has been redesigned for the touch capabilities that are such a key part of Windows 8. Demonstrating new Office features that Windows 8 supports better than Windows 7 might move some customers to accelerate their decisions to adopt the new operating system.
Rumors have swirled for weeks that Microsoft is working on Windows Blue, the next iteration if its operating system. If the company follows past release patterns, this won't be the major transformation that Windows 8 was. More likely it will represent what might be called a service pack in earlier Windows operating system releases.
There's even a projected date for when Windows Blue (that's just a code name) will reach the release-to-manufacturer stage: June 7, according to a post on a Chinese-language site that was discovered by Mary Jo Foley.
The site, Win8China, doesn't attribute where it got its information, but seems to assert that Windows Blue will become the commercial version by the end of the summer. It's hard to tell exactly from the translation of the site provided by Google Chrome.
Here's how the translation reads, in part: "The development cycle time RTM version completed in the mid-term of 2013 (the beginning of the end of June -7), MSDN and other users will then use the priority, and then in August it will be open to all Win8 user upgrade download, as well as pre-installed into the new devices inside a PC, Tablet PC, laptop, ultra-extreme."
Windows 8 tablet discount
Best Buy is knocking $100 off any Windows 8 touchscreen laptop, which in some cases represents an 18% discount.
Some people have linked the sale to the rumored availability of Windows Blue this summer, leading them to conclude that Best Buy is trying to unload current Windows 8 machines before the new version makes them obsolete.
Or the chain might have overstocked Windows 8 tablets and wants to clear its inventory. Or it might be getting ready to stock up on newer hardware due out later this year that blends features of tablets and laptops.
Windows 8 for dunking
Speaking of new hardware, Fujitsu is coming out with a Windows 8 tablet that can sit in a tub of water for half an hour and still work when it gets out.
It's called Arrows Tab Q582/F and is on display at the Mobile World Congress. It costs about $1,350 to start.
Here's how Fujitsu describes it: "With the terminal cap and slot cap tightly closed, IPX5 and IPX8 water resistance features protect the tablet from water damage. IPX5 designation indicates that the tablet can normally function after being sprayed with water from a nozzle with a diameter of 6.3 mm at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute from a distance of approximately 3 meters for a period of at least 3 minutes. The IPX8 designation indicates that the tablet will function normally after being immersed in room-temperature tap water to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. When the terminal cap and slot caps are tightly closed IP5X dust resistance features protect the tablet from dust damage. IP5X indicates that the tablet can be left in an environment with dust particles with a diameter of 75 µm or less for 8 hours and still function and remain safe to use."
Windows 8 Pro mobile phone
A company called i-mate says it is coming out with a mobile phone that runs the full Windows 8 Pro operating system. That's Windows 8, not Windows Phone 8.
When it comes out later this year, it can be purchased with a docking kit that hooks the device into a desktop phone, monitor, keyboard and mouse. The kit includes a tablet driven wirelessly by the phone, which is called Intelegent.
As a standalone, Intelegent costs $750; with the kit, $1,500 and the company hopes to launch the products this summer.
All of this is according to a column in the Seattle Times.
A company spokesman says an i-mate team is at Mobile World Congress this week and couldn't do an interview. "The i-mate Development Inc. team is busy at Mobile World Congress. We'll reach out if they become available at a later date," he spokesman says in an email.
The spokesman also says the Seattle Times column is accurate on details about the phone.
It will be interesting to see whether this device actually comes into being, what its battery life will be (driving an Intel Clover Trail processor) and whether the company can line up service providers that will support it.
This is fun
In this video Bill Detwiler at CNET takes apart a Surface Pro.
(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.