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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 PM


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