On The Surface, No Partner Play For Microsoft Tablet


Solution providers Tuesday said Microsoft is making a big mistake by not leveraging its partners to bring its new Surface Tablet products to market.

“Microsoft needs to remember where their bread is buttered,” said Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based Microsoft partner that also sells Apple’s iPad Tablet. “It would be a huge mistake for Microsoft not to leverage the channel. They don’t have the retail presence or following that Apple has. Microsoft needs the channel.”

Microsoft Monday said that its new Surface Tablets -- the Intel Core-based Surface for Windows 8 Pro and the ARM-based Surface for Windows RT -- would only be sold in Microsoft retail stores in the U.S. and through "select online” Microsoft stores.

[Related: Microsoft Enters Tablet Arena With New 'Surface' Devices]

Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a Green Bay, Wisc.-based Microsoft partner that also carries Apple products, said Microsoft violated one of the first rules of good partnering: communicating product and sales strategies in advance with solution providers.

“We don’t know whether we are going to be able to sell this or not,” he said. “No one has given us any information. The reality is we should know as resellers before consumers or businesses know about any of this so we can advise our customers. If they value us as partners they have to tell us about this stuff a day or two before they tell the world. Otherwise, we look stupid. And I can make myself look stupid on my own. I don’t need manufacturers to help me do that.”

Future Tech's Venero said the Microsoft go-it-alone approach won’t fly in a market where businesses of all kinds rely on solution providers as trusted IT advisors. “The vanilla deployment of Microsoft software products is gone,” he said. “Ninety percent of all software deployments have some type of integration, customization and tie-in to multiple systems throughout the enterprise. That can not be accomplished efficiently and effectively without the solution provider ecosystem.”

“Microsoft should sit down with us like the partners that we have been for the last 30 years and discuss the plan around the Surface Tablet from a customer and partner perspective,” said Venero. “That way we can leverage our existing enterprise relationships and help drive forward what Microsoft is trying to accomplish in the Tablet market space with Surface.”

Venero said he would welcome the opportunity to to discuss Microsoft’s partner strategy with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The Future Tech CEO has met over the course of the last year with HP CEO Meg Whitman, Dell CEO Michael Dell and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns.

NEXT: Partner Says Microsoft Does Not Get The Channel The CEO for a top Microsoft enterprise partner, who did not want to be identified, said Microsoft’s Surface Tablet strategy is another sign that Microsoft does not get the channel.

“Their track record is not one that makes me want to jump in and invest in this," said the CEO. If they are going to make the investment with us then we can talk. But for me to spend my good money to pursue their agenda, I don’t think so.”

The CEO said his company is reevaluating the high level of resources it is dedicating to its relationship with Microsoft.

“We are rethinking our relationship based on the energy that we put in and the results we get out of it,” he said. “Microsoft is an important part of our business because our customers rely on Microsoft software to operate their business. But Microsoft is not engaged strategically with us.”

Microsoft’s software licensing-based partner strategy, which relies heavily on Large Account Resellers (LARs) selling software licenses, is outdated, said the CEO. “The price of poker today is different than it was in the '80s,” he said. “They are doing the same things they did in the '80s, and it no longer works. They have not progressed. And if you don’t progress, you get run over.”

Camera Corner Connecting Point's Chernick said Microsoft is missing out on a big opportunity to grab share in the business market by not working closely with solution providers on the Surface Tablet. He said he gives Microsoft a “five” on a “one to ten scale” for its partnering effort. “They are not the worst and they are not the best,” he said. “Could they engage with us better? You bet.”