A day ahead of Apple's expected launch of new iPads for business users, Microsoft is out to show that it has an established and growing business presence with its Surface Pro tablets.
On September 8, Microsoft announced that Dell and HP will be reselling its Surface Pro tablets, and supplementing them with enterprise-grade services and apps.
These vendors are the first participants in Microsoft's new Surface Enterprise Initiative, which is focused on furthering business adoption of Surfaces running Windows 10. But more partners may be coming, Microsoft officials said.
Dell will begin offering the Surface Pros and related accessories, including docking stations, covers and pens, to its customers in the U.S. and Canada starting in early October. Dell's North American commercial sales force will sell Surface Pros alongside Dell's own Venue Pro and Latitude tablets, which are also aimed at business users. Later this year, Dell will also sell Surfaces via its Dell.com/Work site.
In early 2016, Dell will start selling Surfaces in the remaining 28 markets worldwide where Surfaces are currently sold.
In addition to selling the Surface Pro hardware, Dell also will offer customers buying the devices directly from Dell the option of Dell Services, including Dell Hardware Warranty (up to four years), ProSupport with Accidental Damage Service, and Configuration and Deployment Services. Dell launched ProSupport Plus, a service plan that covers PCs and tablets and aims to use predictive monitoring to head off and resolve issues, in February 2015.
Specifics about HP's plans and timing are still to come.
Update: HP has released a few more details. Its sales force will begin offering Surface Pro 3s in October, a company spokesperson said. HP will also offer a new set of HP Care Packs "designed specifically to help customers to plan, configure, deploy and manage in enterprise environments," as well as "some mobility workflow transformation tools and services that will be available next year," according to a September 8 blog post.
Accenture/Avanade also are part of the new Surface Enterprise Initiative, too, though neither company will be reselling Surface hardware. Consultancy Accenture and its Avanade joint venture with Microsoft already have built hundreds of apps for Windows enterprise customers, said Brian Hall, Microsoft's General Manager for Surface. Microsoft is counting on Accenture to help build more Universal apps for Windows 10 for business users, he said.
Microsoft announced in July that it was expanding the number of distributors authorized to carry its Surface tablets from a few hundred to a couple of thousand.
It's not just availability of the hardware that has been a limiting factor for some business users. Enterprise customers also have "a certain level of expectations of support," Hall said, including things like 24 by 7 service level agreements (SLAs), multinational sales support across geographies and the like. That's where these new Surface Enterprise Initiative partners will come into play, he said.
Microsoft execs also reiterated as part of today's announcements that Microsoft has more business-focused features and services coming for Windows 10. The Enterprise Data Protection technology that's aimed at helping stem data leaks is on track for this Fall, as are Passport secure authentication and Windows Store for business, which will provide business users with a way to distribute their own apps to their employees.
Microsoft plans to roll out these business-focused features to its Windows Insiders as part of coming test builds of Windows 10 "Threshold 2" later this month, officials said.