Microsoft has begun allowing business users to place volume orders for its Surface RT and Pro tablet/PC hybrid devices.
Via a new Surface Commercial Order site, Microsoft is allowing select customers to buy Surfaces; accessories; and after-market plans.
Thanks to Andrew Allston, a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement customer, I was able to look at the new site (a screen shot of which is above). If you're not a Microsoft employee, authorized partner or volume licensee, you probably can't see this page. Instead, you'll likely see this:
"Lead times for delivery and order requirements may vary depending on inventory," the Commercial Order page notes. "If you do not currently have a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft, there may be additional processing time to setup account and credit terms."
I asked Microsoft about the new page and got a no comment from a company spokesperson. So I don't know whether Microsoft partners can order via this page. Nor do I know when this page went live. I believe "commercial customers" means business users with volume licensing contracts with Microsoft, but, again, I am not 100 percent sure, as Microsoft isn't commenting on this.
Microsoft has had problems keeping adquate quantities of its 128 GB Surface Pros in its own Microsoft Stores and in stores of the handful of retail partners it has allowed to carry the Pros, including Best Buy, Staples and Future Shop.
According to a recent Bloomberg report, Microsoft is believed to have sold a total of 1.5 million Surfaces to date -- with about 400,000 of those being Surface Pros which went on sale starting February 9, 2013. Microsoft has sold Surface Pros at retail in the U.S. and Canada only so far. Execs have said to expect broader international distribution in the "coming months."
Microsoft is also widely believed to have sold just over 1 million Surface RTs to date. Those ARM-based systems went on sale starting October 26, 2012, and have not faced the same kind of supply shortages as their Pro siblings. Many company watchers think Microsoft grossly overestimated demand for the Surface RTs and had too many built. (I, myself, prefer the Surface RT to the Pro, especially because the RT has double the battery life, but a number of business users want and need Win32 apps which cannot run on Surface RT.)
Microsoft officials have continued to decline to comment on sales figures for either/both of its Surface devices.
Surface RT and Surface Pro already both come with "at least" a one-year warranty, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to me recently. (Some countries require two-year-minimum warranty.) Microsoft also offers for purchase from Microsoft an additional "Microsoft Complete" extended service plan that is different from the base-level warranty for these devices. Complete must be purchased within 45 days of the date of device purchase.
The new Commercial site advises users of the availability of a " Surface Extended Hardware Service Plan" -- which may or may not be a variant of Microsoft Complete.
According to the new Surface Commercial Order site, "(t)his plan is available for both Surface Pro and Surface RT devices and includes an extension of the hardware warranty up to 3-years."
More details about the three-year plan:
"The plan includes shipping a replacement unit out prior to your product return to minimize downtime. The Extended Hardware Service Plan can be purchased up to 45 days after device purchase. For details on what is and is not covered in the Extended Hardware Service Plan for Surface devices, please see the Terms and Conditions."
The Commercial site notes that the Extended Hardware Service Plan is priced at $200 per device for Surface Pro and $150 per device for Surface RT. "At this time, the Extended Hardware Service plans are available only in the US and Canada and via direct purchase from Microsoft," according to the information on the site.