With just two days until the launch of Microsoft's Surface tablet, channel partners are still confused as to whether or not they can make any money from the product.
Microsoft was clear from the start that its tablet device would be sold through retail channels and direct from its web store, a route-to-market strategy one partner claimed was "alarming".
However, partners are still unclear as to whether the Windows Pro 8 tablet with added business functionality, which is due for release in January, will be available through the channel.
Stuart Fenton, chief executive of VAR Insight, said he foresees that the channel will not be out of the Surface loop for long.
"The only info we have had to date is that all Surface versions will be sold direct by Microsoft. However, I anticipate if success is limited through the direct approach, the channel may become involved in Q1 or Q2, and outside of the US, I would say this is very likely," he said.
Richard Gibbons, software manager at VAR Bechtle, claimed he had also heard whispers of channel involvement.
"Microsoft does not want to give Surface RT to the channel because it is a consumer product, and we got that impression all along. But I have heard that Best Buy might sell [the Windows 8 Pro version], which would be the channel version," he said.
"I definitely hope that we can get it through distribution in January. The interest we have seen from our customers is immense. So many customers are holding off iPad purchases to get Microsoft tablets instead. With Windows 8 on it, and the hardware being so nice, it would just be great to sell it."
The consumer-focused RT tablet, which launches on Friday, is reported to support only the Internet Explorer browser and will not be able to connect to corporate server domains.
January's Windows 8 Pro release is expected to allow business users to upgrade from a Home and Student licence to a Professional licence.
UK pricing for the RT-based devices has been announced, with a 32GB tablet on its own costing £399 or £479 with the black touch cover included. The 64GB version will be priced at £559 including cover.
Andy Trish, managing director of partner NCI Technologies, claimed that although the vendor has been clear that VARs will not be able to sell the tablet, its launch will encourage industry innovation which the channel can take advantage of.
He said: "The only way I could sell a Surface is if I buy it direct, and if I did, a customer would think I was responsible for hardware issues, warranties and the like. This means that selling it is not worth it for me.
"Although I will not be selling Surfaces, the way Microsoft is doing things is good for the market. Other hardware vendors are creating tablets which run Windows 8, and the Surface has [encouraged them to] produce good stuff, which we will actually be able to sell."
Microsoft declined to comment on the channel strategy for the tablet ahead of the launch of Windows 8.
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