Microsoft's decision to tightly control distribution of its Surface tablets via its reseller channel has puzzled many. Wouldn't enabling thousands of resellers worldwide to offer the Surface make the devices more broadly available?
Microsoft didn't allow resellers or distributors to carry Surfaces until July of this year — despite the fact that Surface RT launched in October 2012 and Surface Pro in February 2013. And once Microsoft did add a handful of distributors to its distribution mix, it only allowed a select few distributors to sell Surface devices in the U.S. Microsoft added more distributors and countries to its list on October 1.
But it sounds like the Softies are finally ready to broaden the Surface distribution pipeline and involve lots more resellers, not just distributors.
Microsoft held a recent strategy session with some of its partners where the idea of allowing all resellers to carry the Surface was explored.
Stephen Parker, head of Cloud Strategy at Microsoft partner NewLease was there and wrote a post about it, which has been subsequently removed from the company blog. Luckily, I grabbed it before it disappeared.
From the NewLease post:
"I’m over in Redmond for various meetings with Microsoft. At one of the meetings this morning (Monday 7th) it was confirmed that as of today ALL Australian Microsoft resellers will be able to buy Microsoft Surface devices through distribution channels (Ingram, Synnex).
This is an extension of the earlier program with a limited set of 13 'authorised resellers.' Australia is being used as the pilot geography by Microsoft."
I asked Microsoft about this supposed plan and received this statement from a spokesperson:
"As of Oct 1, we have implemented the initial phase of our commercial channel expansion plan, making Surface available commercially in all 29 markets where we are currently in retail. We are taking a measured and phased approach to expanding commercial channel availability for Surface in an effort to provide the best possible experience for our customers. We are exploring future phases of the program and we have nothing further to share at this time."
It's worth noting that not every planning conversation with partners' results in programs implemented the way they're articulated in closed-door meetings. But this one just seems like a no-brainer — especially given the fact Microsoft is pushing the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 as business machines. And many businesses buy through resellers.
Microsoft is making its Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 generally available on October 22, which is the same day Apple is expected to unveil new iPads. Microsoft announced it will host midnight launch events for Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 in Microsoft Stores in 10 cities across the U.S.