Microsoft Expands Channel Push for Surface Tablet

It’s been 10 months since the initial launch of the Microsoft Surface tablet, and so far Microsoft has taken what it calls a “thoughtful” approach to distribution into business customers around the world. The reality though is that sales haven’t ramped in a meaningful way, so the company is rolling out a new channel push.

“This expansion continues to be via a select ecosystem of established channel partners with the precise geographical reach, tablet selling experience and commercial value-added services capabilities to deliver the type of business experience our customers need,” explained Cyril Belikoff, director of Microsoft Surface, in a blog.

The computing giant is thus announcing the first international commercial channel availability for Surface in Canada and a range of European markets: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.

The move follows a channel rollout in the U.S. that kicked off in July. The Surface is offered via a two-tier partner program called the Microsoft Devices Program (MDP). The program authorizes distributors to sell Surface to a newly designated group of device authorized large account resellers (LARs). In the U.S., Surface is resold through three authorized distributors (Ingram Micro Inc., SYNNEX and Tech Data) and 10 high-volume LARs.

“In addition to offering Microsoft’s extended warranty and accidental damage, resellers bring a variety of additional value-added services to the Surface family, such as asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection,” said Belikoff. “But we’re not stopping here. We’re committed to authorizing a select set of additional partners in these markets in the coming weeks.”

The MDP program is likely to be expanded to select partners in 28 other countries by the end of September 2013. However, as part of the initial go-to-market model, Microsoft is not including its solution providers in the program.

“I believe that in the near-term MSFT is correct in limiting access but in the longer-term they will need to open up to other partners, including solution providers that can help MSFT deliver Surface-based solutions as a means to ensure differentiation in the tablet market and drive margins,” said Forrester analyst Tirthankar Sen, in a blog commentary on the initial U.S. commercial channel roll-out on July 1.

Belikoff acknowledged the limitations but added, “this measured approach helps us to quickly gather feedback and improve while we grow our geographical reach in the business channel. This availability in international markets, along with the updates coming to Surface RT with Windows 8.1 are all important milestones for our customers.”

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