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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 AM