As I blogged yesterday, Microsoft has started allowing business customers to buy Surfaces in bulk, via a new Surface Commercial Order page.
Yesterday, Microsoft officials declined to provide any details about the volume-ordering program. However, on March 20, I received a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson about the program:
“Commercial customers interested in Surface can visit www.surface.com to place orders for Surface RT and Surface Pro. We will continue to take a measured and phased approach to provide customers and partners with the best experience possible. We are, and always have been, committed to the channel, and you can expect to hear from us on that front when have more to share.”
Beyond that statement, the Surface team still isn't talking about the new volume program.
Fortunately, a few of the company's partners have looked into the program and discovered some interesting tidbits. I've included a few screen shots (below) from one Microsoft partner showing what's on the new site.
Microsoft's reseller partners are quite interested in this bulk-ordering capacity, as many of them have been hoping Microsoft might permit them to buy Surfaces (especially the Pros) at a discount and resell them to customers, bundled with various services. So far, the Surface team has not allowed this and, instead, has continued to rely on the retail channel and Microsoft's own stores as the distribution vehicle for Surface RTs and Pros. I've heard a rumor Microsoft might allow its partners to start selling Surfaces as of this July, but company execs aren't saying that publicly.
The new Surface Commercial Order site, from those who've checked into it, is definitely aimed at Microsoft volume-licensing customers. Those looking to buy in bulk are required to provide the name of their Microsoft representative. They also can opt to provide their premier account number, enterprise agreement number and/or volume license number when ordering.
As far as pricing goes, no discounted prices are listed on the site. The prices listed are the same estimated retail prices that customers pay currently. (The three-year service plan, the one new addition, is listed as $150 for Surface RTs and $200 for Pros.) One would assume volume purchases would entail volume discounts. (Maybe these are applied at the end of the purchase process? Update: A couple individuals who tried ordering say no. There are no discounts applied.)
Also: For customers in countries other than the U.S. and Canada hoping to use the Commercial Order site to get around Microsoft's current geographic-distribution limitations, you're out of luck. Only those in the U.S. and Canada are allowed for now to buy Surface Pros through the site. And only those customers in countries where the Surface RT has been cleared for distribution can buy Surface RTs in bulk through the site.
One last point worth noting about Microsoft and its Surface strategy. I've seen more than a few Microsoft customers, partners and company watchers claim that Microsoft is now positioning Surface RTs as consumer-focused devices and Surface Pros as business-focused devices. This is not actually the case.
On Microsoft's own Surface business page, both Surface RTs and Pros are listed as being options for business users. The Surface Commercial Order site makes this clear, as well, given that it provides a way for large/volume licensing customers to buy both RTs and Pros.