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Equus' Swank and other partners said Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot if it wants a toehold in the enterprise. "It needs to work with solution providers," Denali's Daher said.
"Partners are the ones that talk to customers," Daher said. "If Microsoft can't be bothered with the channel, that's to their own detriment. Apple and Samsung welcome the fact they don't have Microsoft to compete with in the channel." By locking partners out of a Surface 2 program, Microsoft has shut itself out of the conversation with customers, he said.
The $1 million question is whether or not the majority of Microsoft partners will get a chance to add Surface tablets and accessories to their catalog, and, if so, when. "I'm not holding my breath," said Bob Nitrio, president of Ranvest Associates, Sacramento, Calif. A lack of access to Surface has been "a really big bur under the saddle," Nitrio said.
VARs are cautiously optimistic on the Surface 2's success. In July, Microsoft took a $900 million charge in its fiscal fourth quarter from what it described as "inventory adjustments" for a backlog of unsold Surface RT tablets. The original Surface RT tablet is considered among industry pundits as one of the company's biggest product failures.
"People take for granted how hard it is to succeed in this market and how easy it would be to quit," Daher said. "Microsoft is proving it's willing to work hard at this market. That means a lot to enterprise buyers looking for a longtime commitment."
Daher said the Surface 2 fits nicely into the larger Microsoft ecosystem and shows a clear path on how the tablet might someday best the iPad in the workplace and prove to be a viable alternative to a laptop.
"I'm not saying I'm sold on Surface or the market is ready to shift," Daher said. "I'm just saying Microsoft's Surface 2 is promising."
CRN Managing Editor Robert Wright contributed to this report.