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Microsoft Surface Ecosystem Approaching 5,000 Resellers

Microsoft executives said Tuesday that nearly 5,000 resellers have signed up worldwide to sell Microsoft Surface business tablets, but that they expect growth of this new partner ecosystem to settle down after that initial rush.

"Today we're now at nearly 5,000 resellers across Surface markets. So the interest has been tremendous," said Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, in a telephone interview Tuesday. "It really reflects the unprecedented response to Surface Pro 3 that we've seen from business customers."

It's a substantial bump from the controlled model of several hundred Surface Pro resellers who were authorized as recently as July, when Microsoft relaxed the rules governing which partners could sell the category-creating, Windows-optimized tablets with magnetic keyboards and integrated pens. At that time, Sorgen said publicly that the program would go from hundreds to thousands of resellers, but he said the speed at which the channel filled out took him by surprise.

Even with the interest in the new Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book that come out next week, Sorgen said he doesn't expect to see the Surface reseller community continue to expand as quickly.

"[As for] the pace to 5,000, those that were interested and knew they were interested and have been interested for some time absolutely jumped in, and it wasn't hard for them to get engaged. They already had relationships with their distributors," he said. "We don't have a target, but I wouldn't expect the continued growth of what we saw. I think that was opening the door and there was some pent-up demand and interest to participate. That's happened, and now I think we'll be in a more steady state from this point forward."

Prior to this July, authorized device resellers, such as CDW, Insight and SHI, and distributors had to meet a lot of criteria to sell the Surface.

"There is significantly less hurdle for the rest," Cyril Belikoff, a director of Surface marketing at Microsoft, explained to my colleague Jeff Schwartz in an interview. "This is really important so we can help those customers who want to buy from their resellers. We think it's important for the customers, and it's a big moment for our partners, too, as we're able to move out and broaden the reseller base and give them the opportunity to service the customers that they've been asking for. The theme here is making sure we and our partners are ready to sell Windows 10 and Surface as we move into the holiday period."

According to Sorgen, the profile of the new Surface resellers runs the gamut. "They're your classic value-added resellers that go through the distributors. Some of them sell hardware, other lines of hardware, some sell hardware and software, some do project services, and there are some examples of vertical players that are integrating Surface into their vertical solutions and going to specifically one set of customers," he said.

Citing the quiet period before Microsoft's upcoming earnings statement, Sorgen declined to say how many Surface devices the new partners have sold.

The partner momentum number came amid a number of Surface announcements Tuesday, including some customer wins and two new programs being added to the Surface Enterprise Initiative.

One program, called Microsoft Complete for Enterprise, makes changes to the warranty, service and support offerings for enterprise customers. A headline feature of that program is the ability to pool warranty claims by company rather than by individual device. So, for example, while the warranty previously limited a device to two replacements, a company can now pool warranties so that accident-prone employees can replace a system after three, four or five coffee spills and drops -- basically borrowing replacements from employees who never need a device fixed.

Another part of Microsoft Complete for Enterprise follows a new theme across Microsoft of creating on-boarding centers to take over responsibilities that were previously often handled by partners -- in this case, training. The on-boarding center will ensure "IT staff and employees have the ability to maximize productivity" and "a premium ramp-up experience to match a premium device," according to a company statement.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 20, 2015 at 2:53 PM0 comments

Lenovo and Microsoft: A Week of Coopetition

Lenovo and Microsoft get close, Lenovo and Microsoft push each other away.

The strains of being an operating system vendor, reliant on your OEM partners one day and then simultaneously competing with them another day, came into full view this week in the Microsoft-Lenovo relationship.

First, the happy face of the partnership.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore (left) with Lenovo's Dilip Bhatia at the San Francisco launch event of the new Yoga devices. Source: Microsoft.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore was on hand in San Francisco this week for Lenovo's launch of two Windows 10-optimized devices, the Lenovo YOGA 900 Convertible Laptop and the Lenovo YOGA Home 900 Portable All-in-One Desktop.

Belfiore blogged, "Windows 10 was designed to help people do great things, and these new Lenovo YOGA devices were built to maximize Windows 10's incredible features. We worked closely behind the scenes with Lenovo to ensure its new products really brought to life the best of Windows 10, and we're excited to see customers' reactions to these new YOGA PCs."

The Yoga 900 Convertible Laptop (top) and the Yoga Home 900 Portable All-in-One (bottom). Source: Microsoft.

Now, the angry face of the relationship.

At a recent Canalys Channels Forum, Lenovo COO Gianfranco Lanci reportedly told attendees that Microsoft approached Lenovo about reselling the Surface Pro, a deal that both Dell and HP accepted. "I said no to resell their product," The Register last week reported Lanci as saying. "[Microsoft] asked me more than one year ago, and I said no I don't see any reason why I should sell a product from within brackets, competition."

As Lanci reportedly put it, Lenovo views Microsoft as a "partner on certain things" and a "competitor" on others. Microsoft, with many similar relationships (see Salesforce.com, Oracle, SAP, Dell, HP, IBM, etc.), surely also views things the same way.

In light of Microsoft's surprise decision to release its own Surface Book laptop, Lanci is probably even happier about his decision to rebuff that Surface Pro resale offer.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 20, 2015 at 4:37 PM0 comments

Microsoft Adds a 2-Tier Distributor to U.S. CSP Program

The select group of 2-Tier distributors in Microsoft's growing Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) U.S. ecosystem grew by one this month, with the addition of SherWeb to the program.

Launched as a pilot last year and greatly expanded this year, the Microsoft CSP program is a cloud reseller program that sets up partners to directly manage their entire customer lifecycle, including direct billing and support.

Some partners, called 1-Tier partners, can order seats on behalf of customers directly from Microsoft. Most partners, however, will be 2-Tier partners, working through a 2-Tier distributor, rather than directly with Microsoft.

The U.S. 2-Tier distributor list initially consisted of AppRiver, Ingram Micro, Intermedia, Synnex and Tech Data.

This month, Canadian-based SherWeb joined the list of approved U.S. 2-Tier distributors. SherWeb originally was approved as a 2-Tier distributor only in Canada.

Jason Brown, director of product management for SherWeb, said the cloud services provider will deliver a very quick get-to-market experience for any U.S. 2-Tier partners that work with SherWeb.

"SherWeb is a new kind of distributor in the cloud services market," Brown said in a statement. "What differentiates us from the others is our free 24/7 support and migration. The fact that we can offer multiple cloud services to clients in a single move is key to a partner's success in the cloud."

SherWeb has about 4,000 partners serving 25,000 customers worldwide on its Hosted Exchange, Infrastructure as a Service and other solutions.

RCP has compiled a directory of the offerings of U.S. 2-Tier distributors here. We'll update it soon with details from SherWeb.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 15, 2015 at 3:01 PM0 comments

Microsoft In-House Cloud Deployment Effort Gets Broader

Microsoft is making its Onboarding Center (OBC) more aggressive in its mission of converting cloud customers to active users, leaving partners for the second time in three months to figure out whether the new OBC will trample their existing business models or augment them.

Launched in 2014, OBC is an internal unit at Microsoft designed to provide free, personalized and remote services to customers to help them turn cloud licenses into active seats. Initially, the hundreds of employees worldwide in the unit provided Office 365 e-mail migrations for customers with more than 150 seats.

With a focus for this fiscal year on consumption, Microsoft's term for getting users activated and using multiple Microsoft services in the cloud, Microsoft expanded the OBC in July to cover data migrations, Enterprise Mobility Services (EMS) and enterprise voice.

On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled another round of significant changes to OBC. At a superficial level, Microsoft is changing the name of the OBC to the FastTrack Center. The name change should reduce confusion, because the center has been delivering migration services as part of a customer offer called FastTrack.

The more significant changes are a broader mission for the FastTrack Center that includes an ongoing element.

"First, we're changing FastTrack from a one-time benefit to an ongoing benefit. This enables you to request support in onboarding new users and capabilities at any time, and as many times as needed, for the life of your subscription," Arpan Shah, senior director for the Office 365 team, wrote in a blog post for customers.

Microsoft is now sandwiching two new elements around the original migration service. FastTrack now consists of three experiences, the new "Envisioning" and "Drive Value" experiences and the "Onboarding" experience, which was the scope of the previous OBC.

The Envisioning experience through a FastTrack.microsoft.com Web site will offer resources and tools for customers to use prior to deployment. The Drive Value experience for post-deployment use will include best practices, guidance and resources.

That Drive Value experience seems like a candidate to generate ongoing outbound calls to customers from the FastTrack Center. Partners have complained that outbound calls to customers from the original OBC generated some confusion over the last year. However, the Drive Value experience is also intended to be a source of new partner business. As Shah wrote in the customer blog, "[We] will connect you as needed with qualified partners who can help you do more."

One other significant difference is that the FastTrack Center's broader mission will bring it into contact with all of Microsoft's customers. While the original OBC was intended for customers with more than 150 seats -- and the Onboarding experience continues at that seat level -- the other two services are expressly intended for all customers.

Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, positions the changes as part of an overall demand-generation effort that will lift all partners on a wave of new business opportunities.

"These updates fully leverage the partner-led engagement model with the FastTrack Center. Partner engagement helps us drive higher customer satisfaction and opens opportunities for you to drive adoption of advanced workloads by delivering high-value services such as business process consulting, managed services, LoB integration and app development," Schuster wrote in a blog post.

The moves reinforce the advice Jon Sastre, CEO and president of ConQuest Technology Services, gave to fellow International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) in a blog post recapping the July Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC).

"The message is loud and clear, they will be doing the design and architecture and all the complex aspect of this work in addition to the commodity stuff. The even bigger concern is the relentless outbound marketing and call downs to clients offering the service," Sastre wrote of the OBC. "My big lesson here that I learned at WPC was lead with the OBC story and capabilities in your own sales motions. Let them know that Microsoft has a high volume output for mass migrations that would still dramatically benefit from your own project management, documentation, complex integration and training offering in addition to your IP as part of a real comprehensive migration strategy. Nothing that Microsoft does will ever match our speed and agility to pivot on client needs."

The FastTrack Center resources are available immediately in English. Microsoft plans to release content in November in Brazilian, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 07, 2015 at 5:10 PM0 comments

Symantec Secure One Partner Program Launches

Symantec Corp., newly re-focused on IT security, on Monday launched a new partner program called Symantec Secure One.

The security vendor is in the process of selling the Veritas data-management arm of its business to private equity firm Carlyle Group and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC for $8 billion. That deal is expected to close by the end of the year, but Symantec and Veritas have been working out the details of a split on the same timetable since the October 2014 announcement of the separation plans.

According to Symantec, Secure One will give partners higher earnings potential, faster payments and streamlined achievements.

"With an increased focus on cybersecurity and a strengthened portfolio aimed squarely at solutions that address today's most sophisticated attackers, we're rolling out Symantec Secure One to enable our partners to leverage our products and services to grow their businesses," said John Thompson, global senior vice president of partner and channel sales at Symantec, in a statement.

Here are the highlights, according to Symantec:

  • Higher earning potential -- Our Growth Accelerator Rebate (GAR) sets one goal on net new business and pays out from the first transaction. Once a partner reaches the Platinum tier in any of the Integrate competencies (Threat Protection, Information Protection or Cyber Security Services), partners participate in a predictable, profitable GAR across the entire security portfolio, including Core Security.

  • Get paid faster -- Partners don't have to wait until the end of the year, which translates into quicker cash flow. Plus, the earning opportunity in quarter is 50% higher than before.

  • Easier achievements -- It's easier than ever for partners to achieve Platinum status. We've streamlined specific requirements (technical validation, customer references, sales certification requirements), so that our partners can earn revenue faster and with fewer hurdles.

For more details, visit partnernet.symantec.com.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 05, 2015 at 9:54 AM0 comments

A Microsoft-Google Détente in Patent Fight?

The Microsoft-Google relationship appears to be entering a less hostile phase.

The companies issued a joint statement Wednesday bringing to an end five years' worth of patent lawsuits covering about 20 cases in the United States and Germany:

"Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues. As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility. Separately, Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers."

Terms of the agreement weren't disclosed, and Microsoft's patent infringement agreements with Android device manufacturers don't appear to be affected.

In short, the agreement doesn't end all areas of conflict between the companies, by any means. But it does line up with the less combative style of Satya Nadella compared to his predecessors in the Microsoft CEO role.

Nadella's Microsoft has been much more visibly collaborative with competitors, which, frankly, has always been a sign of Microsoft at its best. When your product portfolio has as much surface area as Microsoft's does, it only makes sense to work with companies in some areas while competing vigorously in other areas.

The Google move is of a piece with a commentary on Microsoft's partnering guidelines last week by Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft. Pointing to the collaboration with Microsoft frenemies like Salesforce.com and Dropbox in Office 2016, Johnson laid out five principles -- respect, listen, say what you mean and mean what you say, stay focused, and don't be afraid to take a pause or hit reset.

This latest Google agreement would qualify as a reset.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 01, 2015 at 11:09 AM0 comments

Microsoft Lowers Thresholds on Cloud Competencies

Editor's Note: This entry has been updated throughout based on an interview with Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group.

Microsoft has slashed the minimum number of Office 365 seats partners need to sell to earn a cloud competency by about three-quarters.

The move was one of several reduced competency requirements announced Monday in a blog post by Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group. The blog post provides specifics for changes that Schuster outlined at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July.

In the biggest reduction, partners aiming for the silver level in the Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions (SMCS) competency will now only need to sell 40 seats of Office 365 to four new Office 365 customers. That's down from the 150 seats and 10 customers that were required when the competency was introduced a year ago. For the gold level, Microsoft also relaxed the requirements, but less dramatically. To get gold, partners must now sell 250 seats at 25 customers, down from 300 seats at 30 customers last year.

In a telephone interview, Schuster said a lot of partners engaged in the original SMCS competency, but that the higher seat-count was sending a "bad message."

"As we started to work with [customers and partners], what we found is that we really wanted them to spend more time with their customers to ensure that they actually got them up and going and were driving the usage. By having the number of customers so high, we were pushing them in a way that we didn't actually want to. We were pushing them to get to volume rather than quality," Schuster said.

In a separate cloud competency focused on Azure, called the Cloud Platform competency, Microsoft also reduced the sales requirement to achieve silver. In this case, it's about a 40 percent reduction from $25,000 in Azure consumption previously to $15,000 now. That $15,000 requirement applies to what Microsoft calls "developed markets." The requirement for "developing markets" is $10,000.

Benefits are changing for partners with the Cloud Platform competency, as well. The silver level now carries $6,000 per year in Azure credits, up from $3,000 per year before. Gold is also doubled to $12,000 per year from $6,000. Microsoft also ramped up the MSDN and Visual Studio 2015 licenses available to Cloud Platform partners -- doubling silver to 10 licenses and more than tripling gold from 10 before all the way up to 35 licenses now.

For a third cloud competency, Cloud Productivity, which is similar to SMCS but focused on larger customers, Microsoft is shifting its partner-tracking metrics from seats sold and revenues to active use and consumption -- in line with a broad company strategy along those same lines.

"We previously defined performance as seats assigned for Office 365," Schuster wrote in her blog. "Now, achievement comes when you drive Active Entitlements (active users) for silver and gold. You can meet the active user requirement across any Office 365 workload (Exchange, SharePoint Online, etc.) or with Office 365 ProPlus."

Microsoft's internal systems previously could only track Exchange activations, Schuster explained. Now the systems are able to track multiple activations, making it possible to see how deeply a customer is using the Microsoft stack.

Where previously, 500 seats assigned for Cloud Productivity was the bar for silver and 1,500 seats was the bar for gold, the numbers are higher now. Microsoft is now looking for 2,000 Active Entitlements for silver and 4,000 Active Entitlements for gold.

However, that can translate to the same number of end users as before for silver and fewer end users than before for gold, Schuster explained. "If they were on E4, they would have had an entitlement across four different products, so it's essentially equivalent to say that if it was 500 seats, it should be 2,000 Active Entitlements on that same number of seats if they had activated everything," Schuster said.

The blog entry also confirmed official availability of several other WPC announcements. One is the end of the requirement for partners to individually track and assign unique Microsoft Certified Professionals to a specific competency. Another is the official launch of the previously announced Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) competency.

Eligibility for silver and gold in the EMM competency will also depend on Active Entitlements. Partners will need to register 500 Active Entitlements for silver and 2,000 for gold. Because EMM involves two products -- Microsoft Intune and Azure Active Directory Premium -- the actual number of users could be as little as half those numbers if partners sell both products for every user.

Additionally, Microsoft will continue for a second year to waive the silver competency fee for all of the cloud competencies in order to encourage participation and allow partners to invest the money in growing their businesses rather than paying Microsoft, Schuster said. The credit applies to all five of the cloud competencies -- SMCS, Cloud Platform, Cloud Productivity, Cloud CRM and EMM. The fee to join the Microsoft Partner Network with a silver competency is ordinarily $1,665 in the United States.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 28, 2015 at 3:58 PM0 comments

Socius Buys IBIS Dynamics GP Practice

In a deal between two top U.S. Microsoft Dynamics partners, Socius on Friday announced the acquisition of the Dynamics GP practice of IBIS Inc.

The move expands Socius' national reach and bolsters the Columbus, Ohio-based company's GP practice, which has been around since 1984. With the sale, IBIS will concentrate on Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Socius gets IBIS' Dynamics GP consulting and development teams and the Atlanta-based company's GP client base.

Socius, one of the two original Master VARs when Microsoft unveiled that model in 2011, currently has 23 affiliate firms and a national business that covers 18 states and includes the entire Dynamics portfolio, as well as Sage and SYSPRO offerings. The addition of the IBIS practice will expand Socius' presence in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas.

"IBIS Inc. is a solid, strong Microsoft Dynamics partner and I am confident that the consultants joining our team will align well with our vision to fuel our clients' growth," said Jeff Geisler, CEO and senior managing director of Socius, in a statement.

Andy Vabulas, owner and CEO of IBIS, said the move allows IBIS to put a "laser focus" on Dynamics AX and CRM. "It is with mixed emotions that we enter into this agreement to divest our Dynamics GP practice to Socius," Vabulas said in the statement. "This move gives our former Dynamics GP employees and clients new opportunities through working with an organization that now has one of the largest Dynamics GP client bases anywhere."

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 25, 2015 at 2:16 PM0 comments

Flexera Buys Secunia, Combining SAM and Vulnerability Management

Flexera Software is betting that software asset management (SAM) and software vulnerability management are a natural fit.

The Itasca, Ill.-based vendor of software licensing, compliance and installation solutions this week bought Secunia, a software vulnerability management solution provider well-known for its state-of-the-industry reports about vulnerabilities in different products.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the 100-employee, Copenhagen-based Secunia is now part of Flexera, which is privately owned and had roughly 650 employees prior to the acquisition.

In an interview, Flexera CEO Mark Bishof said customers and analysts have been pushing the company to add security vulnerability to its core SAM capabilities, which the company calls Software License Optimization.

"While we're discovering all the software hardware and firmware out there, a lot of our customers have been asking us, 'Hey, wouldn't it be a good idea, since security vulnerabilities happen at the application level, to discover which applications are vulnerable?'" Bishof said.

"When you look at how our enterprise customers are typically organized, the software asset management group and the security group are normally separated. Whoever brings that information together in a digestible, usable framework can be a game changer," he said.

The companies already share some channel partners, who bring the two capabilities together for customers. "There's overlapping partners, but we don't have any overlapping technology. It's nice and clean. That's one of the reasons they sold to us as opposed to others that had security patching technologies," Bishof said.

The Flexera and Secunia products will continue to be sold separately, but the company also plans to integrate Secunia capabilities into the Flexera Software License Optimization platform.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 16, 2015 at 12:21 PM0 comments

Citrix Names New Channel Leader

Citrix named Kimberly Martin to head its worldwide channel effort in the midst of a broader push to reinvigorate the channel and sales in general.

Martin is vice president of partner strategy and sales, with worldwide strategy responsibility for Citrix' diverse channel, which includes ISVs, OEMs, system integrators, service providers, resellers and distributors. She will report to Carlos Sartorius, senior vice president of worldwide sales and services.

Martin comes to Citrix from Datameer, where she was vice president of business development and worldwide partner and channels. She has also held a worldwide channel role at Informatica and an EMEA channel role at Microsoft.

"I'm excited to work with and help reinvigorate our partner community through new innovative programs and initiatives, and will further hone the incentives and engagement model we deliver to our partners," Martin said in a statement.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 16, 2015 at 12:12 PM0 comments

LogicNow Opens a Big Data Chapter for MSPs

LogicNow wants to bring big data analytics capabilities to even the smallest of MSPs.

At its MAX 2015 conference that started Wednesday near Washington, D.C., LogicNow announced a new core technology called LOGICcards. The "cards" are toast-like notifications that appear in an MSP's remote monitoring and management (RMM) dashboard, providing warnings of configuration problems, security issues and other pitfalls that could lead to downtime for the customer and reduced profitability for an MSP.

In his conference keynote, LogicNow General Manager Alistair Forbes said LOGICcards will go beyond using rules based on the specific configuration at an individual customer site. In addition to that information, the LOGICcards will use algorithms to apply machine learning to troves of data drawn from LogicNow's massive installed base and stored in the company's Amazon Web Services (AWS) data stores. According to the Edinburgh, U.K.-based company, its nearly 13,000 MSPs are managing 175,000 networks and 2 million endpoints and processing some 12 billion e-mails, and the algorithms will extract patterns from that data.

"In essence, LOGICcards embeds a data science capability within every one of our MSP customers," Forbes said at the show. "It's like having an analyst in your business that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week to identify improvement opportunities."

From an MSP-to-customer conversation standpoint, the data will allow MSPs to present impressively predictive and prescriptive scenarios to customers, said David Sobel, director of partner community for LogicNow. "I've done my analysis and these are the things that are going to happen to you in the next quarter," Sobel said as an example of what the tool could allow an MSP to tell a customer.

Some of the "cards" will present best practice-style comparisons. For example, Sobel said, an MSP who can show that a customer's preferred timetable for patching servers is in the bottom 22 percent of all environments has a much stronger case to influence that customer to change their policy.

Forbes said a first batch of LOGICcards is available immediately. MSPs who use the MAXfocus RMM product only need to visit a URL and fill out four fields to get started.

LogicNow presents MSPs with a basic set of cards and uses algorithms to tailor which cards appear in the future depending on how an MSP responds to the prompts. If an MSP regularly ignores a certain type of alert, it will no longer appear, Forbes said. Reacting to other cards will cause cards with similar warnings or related types of information to begin to appear, he said.

LogicNow plans to roll out more cards as they are developed. The company planned to present its product roadmap, including more details on the LOGICcards, to partners on Thursday.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 10, 2015 at 10:43 AM0 comments

Microsoft Enlists Dell, HP To Sell Surface

Dell will start selling Microsoft Surface Pro devices and Surface accessories bundled with the computer maker's own services and support offerings next month, and HP revealed similar but less concrete plans.

The companies on Tuesday jointly announced the partnerships, which mark a major advance from the adversarial response Microsoft initially got from many OEMs when it introduced the Surface tablets in 2012.

"We will be selling Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface accessories on Dell.com and through our large commercial sales organization. We'll be starting here in the United States in October and rolling it out globally wherever Surface is sold in 2016," said Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., in a video-taped statement on Microsoft's Web site. "Commercial customers interested in the Surface Pro can now benefit from Dell's broad infrastructure including industry leading services and support."

Services Dell will deliver around Surface include a Dell hardware warranty for up to four years, ProSupport with accidental damage service, and configuration and deployment services.

For Microsoft, the appeal of involvement by Dell and HP is clear.

"Our largest global customers have told us they want to buy Surface from one partner, in one transaction, and have devices deployed all over the world. To meet that need, Dell will now add Surface Pro to their device lineup and sell it along with their world-class enterprise support and services," said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president in the Microsoft Windows and Devices Group, in a blog post.

Microsoft positions the Dell arrangement as the first in a new Surface Enterprise Initiative. Mehdi's blog is worded ambiguously but suggests that similar arrangements with HP, Accenture and Avanade are in the hopper.

HP confirmed it will sell and support Surface Pro in a separate blog post by Mike Nash, vice president of product management for consumer PCs at HP.

"[Customers] -- especially global customers -- have said they would like to see HP not only selling Surface Pro 3, but also supporting it," Nash said. "To respond to this set of customer needs, we are excited to announce that as part of the Surface Enterprise Initiative with Microsoft, we will be offering the Surface Pro 3 through the HP direct sales force. Independently, we will also be offering a new set of HP Care Packs designed specifically to help customers to plan, configure, deploy and manage in enterprise environments. We also plan to offer some mobility workflow transformation tools and services that will be available next year."

The push comes as Microsoft is simultaneously expanding the number of channel partners authorized to resell Surface devices, which accounted for nearly $4 billion in revenue in Microsoft's last fiscal year.

The appeal of the deal is less immediately clear for Dell and HP, which don't typically sell competing brands of computers and which have directly competitive devices of their own, such as the Dell Venue Pro, the Dell Latitude 2-in-1, the HP Elite X2 1011, the HP Pro X2 210, the HP Pro X2 612 and the HP Pavilion X2.

In his video, Dell himself offered one answer, which boils down to a services revenue opportunity and a solution sale. "Innovation isn't just about great devices. It's about partnerships that bring together products with software and services to deliver extraordinary customer value. In addition to our own tablet and 2-in-1 lineup of Dell devices, we are thrilled to bring this innovative and comprehensive offering to our customers," Dell said.

While Microsoft regularly referred to Surface Pro 3 in the announcement and blog, references to the product Dell would sell were to a numberless Surface Pro, leaving open the possibility that the rumored Surface Pro 4 could be the device on offer when Dell's services go live or shortly thereafter. HP's blog referred specifically to Surface Pro 3.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated throughout with more details of the HP partnership.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 09, 2015 at 8:53 AM0 comments