The Microsoft Surface with Windows RT is a great tablet (read our review here), but until now, the device has only been available at Microsoft’s sixty-six retail and pop-up stores in the US and Canada. While it was certainly possible to purchase the device through the store’s website – in fact, this was the only option for people in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, and the UK – it made it difficult for people to get some hands-on time before handing over a few hundred dollars. In response to customers and retailers, Microsoft has decided to widen availability to a number of retailers like Best Buy and Staples. Naturally, production is being intensified to meet the increased demand.

According to Microsoft Retail Sales and Marketing corporate vice president Steve Schueler, this move is being done a few weeks ahead of schedule. The original plan was to “expand the retail presence for Surface after the first of the year,” but you’ll actually start seeing Surface tablets in stores in the United States and Australia as early as tomorrow, with additional countries coming soon.

Staples is the first retailer to announce that it will be carrying the Microsoft Surface “at all Staples locations and as early as December 12.” Best Buy is also reportedly on the list has the Surface listed as “coming soon”, and Harvey Norman, JB-HiFi, and Officeworks in Australia are reportedly on the list as well.

This is excellent news for customers, as it means that they’ll be able to test the device’s standout features like the integrated kickstand and Touch or Type Covers for themselves, but it will also increase the Microsoft Surface’s exposure exponentially. One has to wonder how many customers walked into their local store after seeing one of the Surface commercials or reading a review, only to find out that it wasn’t available. This should rectify that problem.

[Microsoft | ZDNet]