More than a month ago, Microsoft officials announced "Surface as a Service," a new leasing program for Surface devices, but it provided almost no details about how the program would work or what customers could expect from it.
This week, Microsoft officials provided me with more specifics about Surface as a Service, which the company considers to be part of Microsoft's Surface Enterprise Initiative (SEI). SEI, as officials are describing it these days, is "focusing on bringing a family of premium, productive devices to businesses of all sizes, through strategic partners and programs".
Surface as a Service enables business customers to pay monthly to lease certain Surface devices, accessories, software, services, and support. Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partners who are Surface Authorized Distributors and Resellers are the ones authorized to sell Surface as a Service; it's not available directly from Microsoft. (Over time, more resellers will be able to offer Surface as a Service, as well.)
The first CSP to be authorized to sell Surface as a Service is ALSO, which, as part of its "Workplace as a Service Solutions" program, will offer Surfaces with Office 365 and other proprietary software, plus financing. Distributor Ingram Micro announced earlier this month it would also offer Surface as a Service in the UK.
Users can choose 12-, 24-, or 36-month Surface leasing contracts. Each bundle is configured for the customer with a mix of devices, software, and support. At a minimum, all bundles include Office 365, a Surface device and accessories, and a monthly bill.
Here's what is eligible for inclusion in a Surface as a Service bundle: Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Surface accessories, Office 365, Windows 10, ISV software, and customer support service. Microsoft Complete for Enterprise is also available to customers through Microsoft commercial resellers and can be included in a Surface as a Service offering.
"Pricing will depend on the components in the offering and on the length of the subscription. The program is designed to flex to work for each customer, providing all of the components businesses need to support their end users in the most simple and complete way," according to Microsoft officials.
The Surface as a Service program is different from Microsoft's Surface Membership program in a number of key ways.
The Surface Membership Program is a US-only service sold through Microsoft retail stores. Microsoft is touting it as "a great option for small businesses that want the benefits of in-store support". Surface Membership provides customers with Surface devices and a special support offering via a monthly bill for 12-, 24-, and 30-month subscription periods.
Surface membership does not offer the possibility of expanding the subscription with Microsoft cloud services and ISV solution. Surface as a Service program is not run through Microsoft retail stores. "Surface as a Service includes a broader, more customizable set of solutions, programs and services, and is available globally," company officials said.
Microsoft is touting Surface as a Service as a way for customers to be able to be sure they're running the latest model Surface devices, as well as an option for scaling (and then shrinking) the number of devices they're using, when needed.
Currently, I'm still hearing Microsoft won't introduce any new Surface devices this year. Updated versions of existing Surface devices with faster chips are a possibility. Microsoft officials aren't commenting on when and whether they'll add new devices to the Surface lineup.