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Solution providers love Microsoft's new Surface tablet computer. They praise its sleek design and innovative keyboard. They see a product that could compete against Apple's iPad tablet among business customers. And, they see an opportunity to build services around the new device.
Now if only Microsoft would let them sell it.
Microsoft debuted the tablets, Surface for Windows 8 Pro and Surface for Windows RT, in a splashy press event in Los Angeles Monday that had industry pundits guessing for days beforehand what Microsoft was up to.
But in a perplexing move, Microsoft only said it would sell the tablets through its retail stores in the U.S. and through select online Microsoft stores. The company, which has always trumpeted the competitive advantages provided by its extensive partner network, has said nothing about a role for the channel in selling the Surface tablets.
Since Monday, Microsoft executives and spokespersons contacted by CRN have said they have no information about the company's channel plans for the tablet computers.
Some channel partners find that hard to believe.
"It wouldn't make sense for [Microsoft] to go retail-only," said Ronnie Parisella, information technology director at Power Consulting Group, a New York-based solution provider that partners with Microsoft. "Their corporate accounts are their bread and butter."
"It bums me out that I apparently won't be able to sell it," said Erik Thorsell, president of Success Computer Consulting, a Minneapolis-based Microsoft partner. It limits our ability to deliver a complete solution."
"My advice to Microsoft on plans for the channel is NOT to follow Apple's lead [of] prohibiting partners from reselling the product or limiting the purchase of Surface to only Microsoft stores or Microsoft online," said Lyf Wildenberg, president and co-founder of Mytech Partners, a Roseville, Minn.-based solution provider, in an email interview.
"Microsoft needs to make Surface available to its vast partner system via the commonly recognized distribution systems," Wildenberg said. "VARs like Mytech Partners have a tremendous amount of influence over what end-user devices get introduced into a business environment. Microsoft's best move is to enable VARs [and] partners to be part of the process."