Microsoft Surface RT: Dumping Inventory Or Investing In Education?

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Pat Walsh, owner of Computer Station of Orlando, a Deltona, Fla., education reseller, did not completely agree with Ranvest's Nitrio's stance on Microsoft competition but did say he would be excited to see something new on the market. "They don't need the channel more than the channel needs them. I'm sure they recognize that," Walsh said. "My hope is that some company will figure this out and come out with a nice academic tablet program." Walsh said he much preferred HP's convertible tablet for education, adding, "I don't see why anyone would purchase RT in the classroom environment."

"I'm a channel guy, so I think [Microsoft's] direct approach is less than ideal," said Arlin Sorensen, CEO of Heartland Leadership Group, a Harlan, Iowa-based consulting company. "I don't think they are going to have broad adoption of their products until they get the channel involved."

Microsoft has been accused on several occasions by partners and the media of attempting to become more like Apple. The major evidence for the Apple-envy argument include Microsoft creating hardware, shifting from traditional software to cloud-based applications and opening Microsoft store fronts that nearly mirror the Apple marketing scheme, according to Nitrio.

"They are trying to force everybody into the model that they have created in their own mind that is the perfect model for them, but it's not the perfect model for everyone else. They are just hoping that they remain as relevant as they think they are," Nitrio said.

"It's been frustrating for us; we could have sold thousands of tablets," said Walsh. "Over the past 12 months there hasn't been any hotter topic in K-12 than tablets," he said.

Walsh noted the extensive time and manpower that goes into a tablet deal on the education front. The most successful sales happen after a tablet is demonstrated first hand to teachers and school officials. Then there is a certain amount of follow up for training, trouble shooting and maintenance that happen long after the tablets are sold.

"K-12 takes a lot of time and people on the street to help the teachers. Teachers are not technologists, and they shouldn't have to be," Walsh said. "I just haven't found any tablet that makes enough money to justify the sale."

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