Microsoft May Expand Surface Sales To More Partners, But Requirements Are Strict


Considering that Microsoft has angered many partners with its Surface sales policy, it's safe to say that not all those contacted will be jumping at the opportunity.

Microsoft in June began letting a select group of large account resellers carry Surface tablets, but still is not letting its broad channel sell them. Microsoft hasn't explained its reasons for the policy, and that lack of communication has been a source of frustration in the channel.

Several partners that Microsoft has contacted told CRN the potential expansion of the Surface program is a positive sign.

Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based Microsoft partner that sells to enterprise and midmarket firms, told CRN Surface tablets will play well in both segments. "We've got a huge amount of demand from customers asking us to supply this product. It's not in one industry or market segment, but across the board," Venero said in an interview. 

Microsoft partners that haven't been invited to fill out the questionnaire are taking a wait-and-see stance on the potential expansion of the Surface program.

Spencer Ferguson, president and CEO of Wasatch I.T., a Salt Lake City-based Microsoft partner, said while Surface meets his customers' requirements, the margins aren't there yet. If Microsoft were to remedy this, however, Ferguson said he'd consider leading with Surface as his primary tablet offering.

Joe Balsarotti, president of Software To Go, a St. Peters, Mo.-based Microsoft partner, hasn't been invited to fill out the questionnaire. He told CRN he isn't interested in selling Surface tablets because they don't meet his customers' needs.

"It seems a little late for Microsoft to go down this avenue, as the Surface sure didn't take the world by storm [in its first iteration]," Balsarotti said in an email. "But those partners who can make a buck putting Surface in their mix should be able to, in my opinion."

Microsoft broke out Surface sales for the first time in its first-quarter earnings in October. Surface tablets generated $400 million in sales during the quarter, and Microsoft said it sold twice as many of them as it did during its previous quarter.

With Surface tablet sales on the rise, and Windows 8.1 tablets hitting the market, Microsoft has set a combined goal of 16 million tablet sales this holiday season, Microsoft blogger Paul Thurrott reported in November.

PUBLISHED DEC. 4, 2013