It's still a bit light on specifics, but Microsoft announced today that it's increased production of the Surface with Windows RT and is planning to expand its retail presence beyond Microsoft Stores "as early as mid-December." That retail availability will initially be limited to the United States and Australia, with availability in additional countries promised in the "coming months." In a statement, Microsoft's Steve Schueler says that "our plan has been to expand the retail presence for Surface after the first of the year,' but added that "based on interest from retailers, we are giving them the option to carry Surface with Windows RT even earlier." If those locations don't cover you, Microsoft's also announced that it will be extending its current holiday stores into the new year, with "several" of those said to be transitioning to permanent stores. As before, the tablet starts at $499, with the Touch and Type Covers sold separately.

Update: That certainly didn't take long. Staples has now chimed in and confirmed that it will be offering the Surface RT at its retail locations and online store as soon as tomorrow, December 12th.

Update 2: And now, Best Buy has noted that it'll begin offering the Surface beginning tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:00PM CST and in all Best Buy and select Best Buy Mobile specialty stores nationwide this Sunday, December 16th.