Microsoft: Surface Will be for All Partners (Eventually)

Microsoft channel chief Jon Roskill

Microsoft channel chief Jon Roskill

Microsoft’s channel chief Tuesday confirmed that the company’s goal is to make its Surface tablets available to the breadth of its channel partners worldwide. But it’s too soon to say how long before more than the current select few partners will have access.

Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the worldwide partner group at Microsoft, yesterday announced that in addition to the handful of U.S.-based partners granted access to the new Microsoft Devices channel program, it will make its tablet available to select partners in 28 other countries by the end of September.

Roskill Tuesday confirmed to Channelnomics that the company will follow a similar model in those 28 countries (which includes Canada and many European markets) as it has in the U.S.

“The countries will decide who to pull into the first wave, but it will be mostly the DMRs and LARs who sell hardware, as well as large traditional hardware VARs,” Roskill said.

That first wave abroad will likely be followed by broader distribution for the tablet in the U.S., and a similar expansion to more of Microsoft’s 600,000-plus channel partners around the world.

“Our plan is to end up with full distribution around the world,” Roskill said. “Our business customers clearly want to buy Surface from our partners.”

However Roskill was unable to pinpoint when, past the broader rollout to DMRs and LARs internationally in September, more partners were likely to get their hands on Surface.

Roskill described the rollout of Surface into the channel as a “phased approach” and said that the company is being purposely cautious in rolling out Surface to a broader channel, because selling hardware in a business-to-business environment is an whole new ballgame for a company that’s grown up selling software licenses and shrinkwrapped boxes.

“It’s a whole new set of contracts, it’s a different types of logistics challenge,” Roskill said. “There’s a lot of complexity around hardware that we haven’t had to deal with through the software world.”

Roskill said response to the limited international expansion announced Monday has been “very good,” and judging by the pictures from the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston this week, Surface definitely has the channel’s attention. The company is offering partners the opportunity to purchase (for their own use) Surface tablets at deeply discounted rates during the event this week — $99 for the Surface RT and $399 for Surface Pro – and pictures on social media show long lineups for partners who want to get the tablets.