Microsoft ramping up to push Surface broadly through resellers

Microsoft ramping up to push Surface broadly through resellers

Summary: Microsoft seems to be ready to finally make use of its reseller channel to deliver its Surface tablets. A Surface reseller distribution program may be kicking off in Australia first.


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.

Topics: Microsoft Surface, Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Limited Stores

    Microsoft should fire the jackass who was responsible for limiting the supply of Surface RT to few stores. Who got the asinine idea to sell millions of Surfaces in couple of stores in USA? That idiot should never be in sales. Surface RT failed because of non-availability and people never found one to try it out.
    Why does Microsoft always find the most stupidest ways to sell devices? At least they came to their senses after $900 million loss.
    • True.

      Worst thing there are no Microsoft stores outside the US and people can only buy them online.

      Surface is not a bad device but Microsoft made two biggest mistakes.

      1. Overestimating the demand and making millions of RT tablets for a first generation product.
      2. Extremely limited distribution.
      • ATOM-based W8 tablets are good enough

        BayTrail is a capable processor for W8 Pro tablets so there's no much need for a high-end Haswell-based Surface.
      • Contradiction

        Make heaps. Limited the places to buy. It's amazing to think that they did both of these. It just doesn't make sense.

        I remember when the iPad 1 came out. It was everywhere. You could go try it out at your local electronics store. And when the iPad 2 arrived it filtered to general department stores as well.

        Bottom line - you could get your hands to try an iPad very easily. Let's see if Microsoft has learnt its lesson.
        costa k
    • Surface/Windows RT had far more problems than availability

      Terrible marketing, extremely high pricing, confusion between RT and Windows8, rushed release, etc.

      Availability only made it worse.
    • 256GB model delayed

      Another strange thing is that the 256GB model, which is the best PC competitor and therefore the most interesting model, is not available until mid December in Norway - two months later than the weakest models. Why?! Get the products out on the market ASAP after launch. Each day after launch means loss of potential sales.
      • SOLD OUT

        The Pro with the bigger SSD is a hot item. They stopped giving delivery dates for a couple of days until they knew when the next shipment would arrive
    • "fire the jackass who was responsible for limiting the supply of Surface RT

      MS did fire the jackass responsible for that decision. His name is Ballmer!
  • Far too exoensive.

    • The RT is expensive.

      The Pro is not.
      • They're BOTH too expensive

        The RT more so than the Pro.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Expensive for what you get?

          Here's what you're getting with the Pro:

          - A 1080P display
          - A touch-overlay
          - A Wacom (Pen Digitizer) layer
          - An i5 processor (Haswell ULV)
          - An SSD
          - Premium build quality
          - Windows 8

          For what you're buying into, its price is well justified.

          Sure, there are laptops that are cheaper and/or more powerful, but now you're cutting corners.

          This isn't an Atom offering, nor is it a traditional notebook, you're paying for both power and portability.

          The RT is still pretty expensive though. I'd take an Atom tablet over it any day.
          • Nice. Great job.

            You've explained why the Surface Pro 2 is much more expensive than the Surface 2. But, the Surface Pro 2 is still priced too high:

            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Compare it to its competition.

            Are there any other tablets or ultrabooks that compare to the SP2?

            Let's look at the Gen. 1 variant and competitors:
            - The ThinkPad Helix is much more expensive
            - The Ativ 700T is also more expensive
            - The Acer is cheaper, but lacks a digitizer layer
            - The Razer Edge has an inferior screen and lacks a digitizer layer, but has a superior GPU
            - The Yoga is heavier and runs on single-channel

            Compared to Ultrabooks:
            - The SP lacks a keyboard and can't be used as well on your lap (it's still doable)
            - The SP is smaller and lighter than most notebooks
            - The SP can actually be used as a tablet

            It's not the best of both worlds, but it certainly works as a jack-of-all-stats.

            I'm a heavy note-taker and I do light image editing, so the Pro certainly appeals to me.

            Remember that Microsoft isn't making something for your average soccer mom, they're targeting prosumers.
          • Re: they're targeting prosumers

            Are there enough of those?
          • Surface Expensive compared to WHAT?!?

            I'll bet people who say Surface 2 (RT) is expensive have no clue what comparable 10" tablets cost. Apple iPad is $50 more for 16GB or $150 more for 32GB and no expansion. Samsung Galaxy Note is the same price for 16GB and $50 more for 32GB. Google Nexus 10 is $50 less for 16GB, $50 more for 32GB no expansion.

            Surface 2 adds a microSD slot, USB 3.0 port, a kick stand, keyboard cover port and uses higher quality materials. It comes with 200GB SkyDrive storage and Skype WiFi and international calling.

            Surface 2: $450 (32GB), $550 (64GB)

            iPad: $500 (16GB), $600 (32GB), $700 (64GB)

            Galaxy Note: $450 (16GB), $500 (32GB)

            Nexus 10: $400 (16GB), $500 (32GB
          • cool8man: "Surface Expensive compared to WHAT?!?"

            Remember that Microsoft is attempting to break into a tablet market with well-known and established players. One does that both by offering a compelling product (I like both the Surface RT and Surface 2, btw) and by pricing one's product below the competition.

            Microsoft nailed it with a $349 U.S. price tag for the Surface RT. They should have followed suit with the Surface 2.

            P.S. Pricing was a huge mistake made by HP with its WebOS-based TouchPad tablet. HP's other major mistake was that it gave up on WebOS too soon. At least Microsoft isn't making the latter mistake with Windows RT.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • If nobody else can offer a high-end 10" tablet for $350 and make money

            How can MS sell a 1080p Tegra 4-class tablet with more memory, ports, and features than any other tablet on the market (plus .5" larger display) for less than Samsung or Google?

            If MS wanted to copy Amazon Kindle Fire, the build quality would have to go way down, the ports would all have to be eliminated, the services would have to become mandatory, ads would have to become more prominent and even then it's questionable if they would make any money (Amazon doesn't seem to make money). Which begs the question why even bother at that point since there are plenty of Windows OEMs who will sell absolute garbage hardware for low margin or no-margin prices.

            Microsoft wants to establish themselves as a profitable hardware company which means their products need to be priced somewhere in between Samsung and Apple. Or they need to force their paid subscription services on everyone who buys the tablets.
          • What exactly did MS "nail" at $350?

            If Microsoft is taking a hit of $900 million for selling the old Tegra 3 Surface RT for $350 how on earth did anyone reasonably expect them to sell a more expensive 1080p/Tegra4 version for the same price?

            A billion dollar writedown is the definition of "nailing it?"
          • That is a great question

            but it should only get worse as other OEMs are going to put out full Windows8 tablets with same/more processing and graphics power.... at the same or less prices.

            Where does that leave WindowsRT?

            The same might be said for Android or iOS as they will still laregely remain compaion devices designed for media consumption which isn't exactly hard to do for any tablet.