Editor's note: As part of our special editorial partnership, CRN is publishing this recent article from Channelnomics
A bit later than expected, Microsoft announced yesterday that the Surface Pro, the enhanced version running the full X86 version of Windows 8, will hit the market on 9 February through direct and retail sales.
Microsoft is even expanding the number of geographic markets Surface will be sold in. But Microsoft remains mum on when, if effort, Surface tablets will be sold through the B2B channel.
Official sales numbers are unavailable, but analysts believe Microsoft sold between 400,000 and 600,000 Surface RTs, the tablet powered by an ARM processor.
Microsoft's plan was always to lead the market with the RT version, then follow with the Pro version, which runs an Intel Core i5 processor. Surface Pro starts at $899 in the US; versions with larger memory capacity and Type Cover easily push the price above $1,200.
Surface Pro was expected in January. Microsoft moved the release date to early February, but gave no explanation for the delay. Given that Surface Pro is being released concurrently with the new Microsoft Wedge mouse, Microsoft is making it clear that the advanced tablet is being positioned as an notebook replacement and ultrabook alternative.
"Surface Windows 8 Pro is an exciting new addition to the Surface family, bringing a powerful, work-ready device that is just at home in the boardroom as it is the family room. Whether you're a road warrior, a student or someone who just wants a flexible and powerful Intel PC, the Surface Windows 8 Pro will deliver. It's the perfect complement to the Surface Windows RT and delivers hours and hours of entertainment with plenty of power and productivity to get your work done as well," wrote Panos Panny, general manager of Microsoft Surface, on the Microsoft Blog.
In addition to the US, Surface is sold in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and the UK. With the release of Surface Pro, Microsoft is expanding sales to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
From its launch in October to mid-December, Microsoft sold Surface exclusively through its website and fledgling network of retail stores. Just before the holidays, Microsoft expanded sales to retail outlets, including Best Buy and Staples. Adding retailers to the mix may have been in response to a growing volume of grey market sales through retail sites, including Amazon and eBay.
Even as Microsoft continues to pour millions of dollars into a supporting marketing campaign, Surface sales have been shallow compared to the millions of units sold by Apple, Amazon and Samsung. Part of the reason, critics say, is Microsoft's restrictive distribution scheme. By opening Surface to channel sales, channel advocates - including we here at The 2112 Group and Channelnomics - say Microsoft could make deeper inroads in the tablet and mobile computing markets.
Despite solution providers expressing a strong interest in selling and supporting Surface, Microsoft has resisted even talking about releasing the tablet to the channel.
Every inquiry about releasing Surface to the channel has been met with stocked responses and avoidance.
Pannos promises more information about Surface Pro as the release date approaches. Given the focus on technical specifications and retail sales, there's little reason to believe Microsoft will suddenly open up and release Surface to the channel. Then again, Microsoft surprised many when it expanded sales to retail.
CRN's Nima Green caught up with Chris Labrey for a quick Q&A at CRN's recent European Channel Leadership Forum
We caught up with the Atea chief exec at CRN's European Channel Leadership Forum in London
Andy Gillett has been appointed GM for the UK and Ireland
UK is one of two countries to see rollout of vendor's newest subscription service