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Partners: New Microsoft Surface Laptop Accelerates Channel Competition

Microsoft is getting into the laptop hardware business with the introduction of the Surface Book, setting the stage for what could be open warfare with its OEM partners.

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Microsoft Surface Book

Microsoft revealed Tuesday that it is in the laptop hardware business, setting the stage for what could be open warfare with its OEM partners and calling into question the antitrust issues surrounding its position in the operating system market.

By unleashing a new laptop, the 13.5-inch Surface Book, Microsoft surprised the industry.

Microsoft's message to hardware manufacturers like Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo with the Surface Book's introduction is clear, said Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based solution provider LAN Infotech.

[Related: Microsoft Plants Its Hardware Flag: First Look At The Surface Book, Surface 4 And The Rest Of Its New Gear]

"They're saying, 'We're Microsoft and now we're going to be competing in your space,' " Goldstein told CRN. And Goldstein said he is eager for that competition to begin.

"I'd love to get my hands on it," Goldstein said. He said he'd already begun drafting a letter to distributors Tuesday, the day the Surface Book was unveiled, asking how LAN Infotech can get the new 13.5-inch laptop with detachable touch screen, he said.

"This just gives Microsoft a platform to accelerate from. Now they can make innovation come out on their hardware," Goldstein said. "I was surprised. It's cool. It's got some Apple-ness. It's not just a laptop."

Pricing for the Surface Book starts at $1,499. It's available for preorder Wednesday and will launch publicly Oct. 26. A Microsoft spokesperson said commercial customers should contact authorized resellers for preorder availability and pricing. "Unfortunately, we don’t have any specific details relating to resellers available to share at this time," the spokesperson said via email.

The introduction of the Surface Book comes three weeks after Microsoft sparked controversy in the channel with an agreement that allows Dell and HP to resell Surface Pro tablets directly to customers.

At the time, Dell Vice President of Americas Channels Jim DeFoe said in a blog that Dell's Surface Pro reseller agreement would open the door for partners on Windows 10 migrations and for selling other Dell-branded solutions.

That argument fell flat with Dell partners, who said the deal was more likely Dell's response to customers' asking, "Why don't you make something like this."

In an emailed statement, Dell told CRN it has no plans to sell the Surface Book.

The Surface Book comes with 6th Generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, and boasts up to 12 hours of battery life. The 13.5-inch touch screen delivers a high-contrast, 267 dpi display, the Redmond, Wash., company said in a release.

PUBLISHED OCT. 6, 2015

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