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Partners: Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 Will Threaten iPad Enterprise Sales

Lindsey O'Donnell

Microsoft will shake up its flagship Surface device portfolio in October with the release of its new Surface Pro 4, according to a new report by Taiwanese news company DigitTimes.

Microsoft-authorized Surface resellers, for their part, are hailing the new Surface Pro 2-in-1 as a hard-hitting threat to Apple's iPad tablet in the commercial segment, due to its productivity accessories, flexible form factor and compatibility with Windows 10.

"The iPad has been out there for so long, but it doesn't have the same accessories as the Surface Pro series," said one authorized reseller, who wished to remain unnamed. "I've had some customers decide to wait until the Surface Pro 4 comes out, particularly due to its rumored multiple USB ports. It wouldn't surprise me if we saw a Surface Pro 4 by October."

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

Microsoft is reportedly developing not one, but two, thinner and lighter versions of its flagship enterprise-targeted Surface tablet, and will unveil both devices in October, according to DigiTimes.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company will reportedly release a 12-inch screen Surface Pro 4 version and a bigger-screen 13-inch to 14-inch option aimed at enterprises. They will run on Microsoft's new Windows 10 OS, contain multiple USB-C ports and may be powered by Intel's new Skylake chipset.

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.

The Microsoft reseller, who said he has seen an uptick in his pipeline since he was authorized to resell both the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3, stressed that these features and other third-party accessories are a "game-changer" for enterprise customers, as well as for channel partners looking to make some extra money off bundled Surface sales.

"You have the device, but customers also want a keyboard, adapters, a docking station and other types of accessories as part of a commercial bundle," he said. "If I look at my sales, I'd say customers are buying a minimum of two or four accessories along with the Surface Pro."

These features are leading to Microsoft's success in the tablet and 2-in-1 space, as a news report released by market research firm IDC stated that, while Android and iOS tablet and 2-in-1 device shipments in 2015 are expected to decline, devices running on Windows will experience an explosion of growth this year.

Windows tablets and 2-in-1 devices are forecast to only take 8.4 percent of the market share in 2015, but that is an almost 60 percent increase from last year, according to IDC. Looking ahead to 2019, Windows will continue growing in the tablet and 2-in-1 market to gain 17.5 percent market share.

Apple's iOS, meanwhile, was the second-most-popular operating system for tablets and 2-in-1s behind Android, but will face declining sales in 2015, down 14.6 percent year over year, according to IDC.

Apple's new reported tablet, the iPad Pro, may rectify declining iPad sales by adding on productivity features, such as multitasking abilities as part of iOS 9, and a larger, 12.9-inch screen.

According to Ryan Reith, program director for IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, this growth in Windows is almost primarily in the 2-in-1 space. The release of Microsoft's latest OS, Windows 10, in July, will help to trigger a commercial uptick in 2-in-1 sales in the coming years, he added.

"We see this as having some commercial opportunity in two or three year's time, and the reason I say that ... is because IT decision-makers tend to move slow onto new platforms and form factors," Reith told CRN. "However, a lot of [IT departments] skipped Windows 8 completely so they are focused on moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10. This will be the driver."

Mike Hadley, CEO of Boston-based Microsoft partner iCorps Technologies, an authorized reseller of Microsoft's 2-in-1 Surface Pro devices, agreed, stressing that customers are intrigued by the pen, keyboard and kickstand abilities of the Surface Pro devices, in particular.

"I do believe that Windows 10 is already far better than [Windows] 8 ever came close to be, and I think sales will be much more aggressive on Windows 10, so the evolution of that will kick off the Surface," he said. "More people will abandon their tablets, laptops and desktops for this device that offers one solution."

The larger size of the Surface Pro devices also will make a mark for enterprise clients, as IDC said it expects larger-screen devices to grow in popularity in the coming year.

For example, larger-screen tablets and 2-in-1s, with screens exceeding 10 inches, will grow from 18.6 percent in 2014 to 39.5 percent of the 2-in-1 and tablet market in 2019.

This growth is due to the increased productivity features that large-screen devices bring to the enterprise, such as multitasking abilities.


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