Microsoft Exec: We're Still In Holding Pattern On Surface Sales In Channel


Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based Microsoft partner, is one of those who was asked to fill out the Surface questionnaire in December, and he's none too pleased with Microsoft's lack of action since then.

"All we got back was a, 'Thank you, we're not doing anything" with expanding Surface channel sales, Venero told CRN. "We're involved in the sales of tens of thousands of mobile devices every year through our client customers, but I can’t do anything with Surface."

Venero believes Microsoft's decision to limit channel distribution of Surface to its large partners is sapping other partners' enthusiasm for the product.

"They have segregated and played favorites in the channel to the big-box companies," he said. "Surface in the partner community needs to be all or nothing, because, otherwise, Microsoft is alienating everyone else."

However, Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN he understands Microsoft's position on Surface and doesn't have a problem with the slow-and-measured approach.

"I give credit to Microsoft for pushing the envelope with the Surface, and I understand why they want to take a measured approach to their channel strategy. To me, that is a sign that they respect the channel and want to get it right," Hertz told CRN.

The Surface issue is just one of many Sorgen has been dealing with since taking over the Microsoft channel chief role last August, just a few weeks before Jon Roskill, his predecessor, was fired. But it may well be the most controversial, as it seems to inspire an inordinate amount of frustration within the channel ranks.

Will Microsoft be ready to let more partners sell Surface by the time its Worldwide Partner Conference rolls around in July? Sorgen wouldn't commit to that happening, but he did say that, in his view, the measured approach is ultimately in the best interests of partners.

"Sometimes being an advocate for the channel is measured by what you do, and sometimes it’s what you don’t do. When we're going all in, we need to be ready to go all in," Sorgen said of Surface distribution.

PUBLISHED MARCH 18, 2014