Exclusive: Local Surface channel plans to emerge "in weeks"

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Exclusive: Local Surface channel plans to emerge "in weeks"
Dean Swan, Microsoft Australia

Microsoft will reveal its Australian commercial channel plans for the Surface RT and Pro tablets "in the next week or so".

Dean Swan, Microsoft's director of partner business & development, spoke to CRN at the vendor's annual Australian Partner Conference (APC), saying there was "a lot of demand" from partners to sell the touch device.

[Photos: opening night at Microsoft APC]

He said that Australia was one of its "wave two" release countries.

Microsoft began selling the Surface to business customers in the US via a network of 10 channel partners on 1 July, and followed that with an expansion of the commercial channel strategy to 16 European countries and Canada on 15 August.

"In September, we will launch our Surface commercial channel," said Swan. "We are just finalising what that will look like in terms of the local distributors and early-phase authorised resellers.

"We will have some more to share in terms of what that looks like in the next week or two, in terms of who are the partners and who are the distributors.

"We recognise there is a lot of demand in the channel. We want to push the envelope a little more in Australia and we will get specific with the numbers in the next week or two, in terms of how many partners we will go to market with in the first instance."

Swan added Microsoft Australia "has a deadline we are trying to work towards" and things were moving quickly.

[Review: Microsoft Surface Pro]

He also offered some insight into the initial channel strategy for Surface, which was met with strong criticism.

Swan said hardware was a new world for Microsoft. "Warranties, returns, the supply chain, inventory – it is a very complex and different beast."

He added: "Microsoft had limited experience in the past in terms of hardware. We have brought Xbox and Kinect to the market but that is a retail channel. Outside of mice or keyboard, we have never really brought a tablet or PC to the market through the channel.

"We have been very cautious. We need to be able to protect the interests of the end customers as well as the interests of the channel, so that's what you have seen playing out."

The industry has questioned Microsoft's sense in opting to go to market via a retail network – exclusively with JB HiFi and Harvey Norman in Australia – snubbing its traditional supply channel.

"We hear the feedback from the channel; we are absolutely taking that into consideration. I think we take a medium- to long-term view to things. That is always Microsoft's view," added Swan.  

Steven Kiernan is a guest of Microsoft at APC

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