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Building On The Surface: Microsoft Adds More Partners To Resell Tablets, Sources Say

Microsoft is widening its Surface tablet reseller base with a new wave of channel partners selected exclusively to showcase the benefits of the company's flagship tablet device.

Microsoft is widening its Surface tablet reseller base with a new wave of channel partners exclusively selected to resell and reap the benefits of the company's flagship tablet device.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company may announce a number of partners that have been newly authorized to resell the Surface Pro line during its Worldwide Partner Conference next week (July 13-15 in Orlando, Fla.), according to sources familiar with the matter.

One such newly authorized partner, Mike Hadley, CEO of Boston-based Microsoft partner iCorps Technologies, which was authorized to sell the Surface about three weeks ago, said reselling Microsoft's flagship tablet opens "tremendous" opportunities for his business.

[Related: 10 Cool Accessories For Decking Out The Surface Pro 3]

"I think Microsoft's taking the right step by leveraging the channel and the relationship that channel partners have with their clients," Hadley said. "We looked at our need, capability and solutions for clients, and we plan on doing some really cool stuff with this."

Microsoft would not comment on the new round of Surface-authorized partners.

The 12-inch Surface Pro 3 and the more recently released 10.8-inch Surface 3 have been applauded for their productivity features, including a stylus pen and a kickstand that allows users to switch the position of the device.

Despite the Surface's enterprise-focused features, partners have expressed frustration with Microsoft for largely roping off the channel from the Surface Pro line, as it initially started selling its product -- which hit the market in 2013 -- through large retailers like Best Buy and the Microsoft Store.

The company in September added nine national partners to resell Surface under its Authorized Device Reseller Program, bringing its total number of Surface resellers to 20.

One recently authorized partner, who wished to not be identified, said Microsoft has been slowly expanding the Surface distribution channel.

"We're trying to be the one-stop shop for customers. This makes it easier for them -- it's harder to go to the retail store," said the partner. "We sell a lot of different things, but this is the first hardware device that we will sell. We do think it's a great product, and it will give us the ability to go out there and have the product, as opposed to recommending something we don't actually have."

Ted Smith, vice president of sales at Microserve, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based Microsoft partner that was authorized in March to resell the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 tablets, said the authorization was an opportunity to become more "entrenched" in the Microsoft ecosystem.

"Microsoft's first wave of partners were really LSPs [licensed service providers] that already had a strong relationship with Microsoft," said Smith. "This wave may not be as entrenched in Microsoft's ecosystem -- we want to expand our relationship with Microsoft and the company's staff. It will be good for Microsoft to get more coverage in the marketplace by leveraging more resellers."

The Surface Pro could use the channel boost, as Microsoft accounted for just 2.1 percent of the tablet market in 2013, with 4.03 million units sold, compared with 70 million units sold by Apple, which ended 2013 with 36 percent market share, according to market researcher Gartner.

Smith said Microserv, was recently authorized by Microsoft to be Authorized Device Resellers in the next wave of selection, as were several other North American partners.

Smith said the distribution channel nominated partners they thought were a good match, and while he wasn't sure what the core qualifications for these matches were, he said Microserve's own strengths were grounded in the company's experience managing and deploying end-point devices.

In terms of distributors, the recently authorized partner said Ingram Micro discussed Microsoft tablet resales with recently authorized channel members over a phone call, and that it seemed that there were many other partners on the call.

Tom Blankenhorn, senior director of sales and vendor management at Ingram Micro, stressed in a statement that Ingram Micro "advocates" for channel partners but does not actually authorize partners.

’Only Microsoft can formally authorize partners on Surface -- not distribution. It’s a great opportunity [to sell Surface], and we’re advocating on behalf of our channel partners to Microsoft and working together to help channel partners build and grow successful Microsoft practices."

According to Microsoft's website, the Microsoft Device Partner Program is not accepting new applications at this time.


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