Microsoft launches Surface Pro preemptive strike vs. Apple's iPad Pro

Microsoft is hoping some distribution firepower and some help from HP, Dell and Accenture can offset Apple's increasing momentum in the enterprise and the launch of the iPad Pro.

Microsoft is countering Apple's iPad Pro and plans to target Corporate America with its main assets in the enterprise---distribution and partners.

Mary Jo Foley reported that Dell and HP will resell Microsoft's Surface and supplement them with enterprise services and apps. Avanade/Accenture will build new Windows 10 business apps under the guise of the Surface Enterprise Initiative. Microsoft execs also hinted that more distribution deals are in the offing.

Why now?

  • The Windows ecosystem realizes it has to thwart Apple in the enterprise to some degree. Apple has been rallying with strategic partnerships with the likes of Cisco and IBM to bolster its standing in the enterprise.
  • Microsoft's hardware partners couldn't beat the Surface so it's joining the parade. Dell and HP both have hardware rivals to the Surface, but Microsoft's hybrid device fares well.
  • Distribution still matters in the enterprise. Microsoft has had a hardware ecosystem for decades and relationships with integrators.
  • Enterprises may prefer to stick with Windows because that's where the legacy apps are.
  • Microsoft has scaled back its hardware ambitions. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has made it clear that the company is about cloud, mobile and apps not necessarily hardware.

What a difference a few years makes. When Microsoft first launched the Surface it looked like the software giant wanted to compete with its hardware partners. Today, the tide has turned amid a shift to the cloud and realization that Dell, HP and Accenture can make better profits surrounding devices with services and support.

If you size up the Surface partnership players only Accenture can play the multiplatform game. HP, Dell and Microsoft all need the Windows ecosystem to thrive.

iPad Pro preemptive strike

Apple's long-awaited iPad Pro is expected to be revealed Wednesday. According to 9to5Mac, the iPad Pro will have a 12.9-inch display and a keyboard and stylus sold separately.

If the iPad Pro sounds a bit like the Surface that's because the two devices rhyme.

More importantly, the enterprise will be choosing a platform as well as a device. As noted before, the iPad Pro isn't a slam dunk for corporations. In many respects, the Macbook may be a better choice. Meanwhile, corporations want either laptops or 2-in-1 devices. Apple's challenge will be pitch the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. Microsoft has made that argument with the Surface for years.

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However, the Windows ecosystem can't afford to let Apple via OS X or iOS dominate the enterprise app discussion.

Accenture's role in the Surface partnership is to create industry specific applications that are unique to Microsoft's tablet/laptop. Sound familiar? The Accenture-Microsoft partnership rhymes with the Apple-IBM deal.

Microsoft's Surface distribution barrage aims to make it easier for enterprises to support the device. HP and Dell will deliver support. Accenture will integrate.

The bet here is that corporations will stick with the platform they've already bet on---Windows. Now that Windows 10 has landed and enterprises are likely to see it as a screen unification tool you're going to see more Microsoft partnerships similar to the one it cut with Dell and HP. The enterprise isn't the consumer market. Distribution may matter more.