Microsoft has significantly expanded the reseller network for its Surface, after years of facing intense pressure from channel partners that wanted access to the 2-in-1 device.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando this week, Phil Sorgen announced Microsoft was expanding the program globally from "a couple of hundred resellers today to a few thousand over coming months", with the help of distributors.
"So if you’re a reseller or systems integrator with strong hardware capabilities, we’re looking forward to welcoming you and we’re excited to see how Surface’s presence in the commercial space will continue to grow – with your help," wrote Brian Hall, general manager, Microsoft Surface, on this blog.
"Interested partners should go to the Microsoft Partner Network Device Partner Portal and contact an Authorised Device Distributor to learn how to become a partner."
Microsoft's two Australian distributors are Ingram Micro and Synnex. Phil Goldie, Microsoft Australia director of partner strategy, told CRN that the new channel "won't be completely open" – resellers will still need to prove their eligibility.
He revealed that Microsoft would give precedence to resellers with proven device businesses, as well as those that are strong in Microsoft cloud solutions. "Surface is a great opportunity to light up the commercial cloud services, so we will be looking for partners with those capabilities."
Until now, the Surface range was available in Australia from two consumer retailers – Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi – as well as around a dozen commercial resellers.
The list of Surface resellers has changed at least three times since Microsoft opened up sales to 13 resellers in late 2013.
The current commercial Microsoft Surface resellers are CompNow, Ethan Group, Southern Cross Computer Systems, ASI Solutions, Brennan IT, Ensyst, Data#3, Staples, Insight, Datacom, Dimension Data, Trident, Learning with Technology, Triforce and Somerville Group.
Two resellers, Perth-based Stott & Hoare and Sydney-based e-Volve, exited the program earlier this year.
Even as the channel is opened up, the current commercial resellers will maintain their position as "top tier" Surface partners, said Goldie, managed directly by Microsoft rather than via distributors. All resellers will continue to be supplied via Ingram and Synnex.
The restricted nature of the Microsoft Surface channel has frustrated local resellers, with many complaining to CRN about not being able to sell the device.
Those lucky enough to gain reseller status are part of a growing market – Surface Pro revenues at Microsoft reached over $1 billion in a quarter last year, with IDC reporting at the time that Microsoft’s share of shipments had grown 53 percent.
More than 200 Australian channel partners have made the trip to Orlando for the annual conference. Check out photos from the opening night party here.
Steven Kiernan is a guest of Microsoft at Worldwide Partner Conference 2015.