Microsoft is still withholding its Surface RT tablet from its channel despite opening the doors to retail partners JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman late last year, CRN has learned.
Microsoft launched the product in October with the strategy to sell direct - a decision which angered its channel partners and attracted criticism it was copying Apple.
In mid-December Microsoft decided to allow some of its local retail partners - the two biggest consumer electronics chains in Australia, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman - to begin selling the tablet to their customers.
The company has repeatedly declined to comment on its channel strategy around the tablet, most recently following the unveiling of its Surface Pro sister product at CES 2013. It is unknown whether Microsoft’s resellers in Australia will be able to get their hands on the device, but retailer Harvey Norman said it expects to begin retailing the Pro soon after it arrives down under.
However CRN has learnt that despite indications, Microsoft is still not making the Surface RT available to its channel. None of its distributors, namely Ingram Micro, Synnex, Westcon, Avnet and Express Data list the product among their inventory.
Solutions provider and Microsoft gold partner Data#3 confirmed it was also not involved with the Surface RT. Managing director John Grant said the company was more interested in the Pro and was hoping Microsoft would open the business-grade tablet up to its partners.
Microsoft is yet to communicate with its distributor and reseller partners whether it will make the Surface Pro available, CRN understands.
The software giant’s resellers are frustrated with Microsoft’s closed approach, and are desperately hoping the company takes a different tack with the Surface Pro.
“At the moment if I wanted the Surface RT, I’d have to buy through Harvey Norman or JB Hi-Fi, and I’d lose money that way,” one reseller told CRN. “There’s just nothing for Microsoft’s non-retail partners.”
The Surface Pro is more desirable to Apple’s resellers due to its business-grade features. The Surface Pro offers the full Windows 8 operating system, meaning easy integration with workplace Windows environments, as well as an Intel x86-based Core i5 chip, 4GB RAM, USB 3, stylus and two-year hardware warranty.
The company has been accused of copying Apple’s notoriously singular approach, a decision which analysts believe will hinder sales of the product. It was expected to move 2 million Surface tablets following its launch in October, but according to one analyst firm has only shipped half that amount.
Microsoft is yet to reveal Surface sales, but reportedly planned to produce between 3 million and 5 million units in the fourth quarter.