Businesses will be able to buy Surface devices from resellers in the UK by the end of September, Microsoft confirmed today at its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, Texas.
Jon Roskill, Microsoft's corporate vice president for its worldwide partner group told the 16,000-strong crowd of partners at the conference that by the end of September, 28 more countries, including the UK, would be able to resell the products.
Last week, the vendor confirmed it was letting 10 US VARs sell the products as part of its Devices Programme, after months of speculation from the channel as to whether they will ever get their hands on the tablets.
Microsoft's UK director for partner strategy and programmes Janet Gibbons (pictured) said that initially, only a select few resellers will be able to sell it as part of a pilot scheme it is running, although she could not name which VARs would be involved, or even how many.
"In every market, we're positioning [Surface availability] as a pilot... Our only experience of being a hardware provider is with the Xbox, and that's a different world - we know how to do that, that's the consumer market," she said.
"If we're going to come to the market with a device, we have to know we are set up well to support the channel with things like warranty, return, credit and distribution of stock [information]. All of that has to be worked through.
"We need to work out what type of partner we sell through and also... what the demand is for Surface. We need to start small, test those [things] out, and based on what we learn, we broaden from there."
She added that the current task for the vendor is to identify authorised distribution and reseller partners in the UK, which she says is underway.
VAR Insight is one of the US-based firms authorised to stock the tablets in the region, and when the news first broke, the reseller's EMEA president Stuart Fenton suggested that the company would be set to sell it in EMEA too.
He tweeted last week: "Microsoft Surface tablet now available [at] Insight USA. We expect European availability in the summer."
UK resellers have been desperate to get their hands on the tablets since the consumer-focused RT tablet launched last autumn. Gibbons said the reaction to the tablets had been positive, which drove the decision to scale out and bring in the channel.
Keeping the peace
When questioned on whether selling the Surface devices through the channel will strain its OEM partner relations, Gibbons said Microsoft had no plans to snatch market share from its partners.
"You have to remember, Surface is not out there today... we are bringing out a device with zero market share compared to the enormous market share our OEMs enjoy," she said. "Even if it flew off the shelves, it is unlikely to erode their market share. We want it to be one device of many.
"We know the channel is frustrated, but the fact we're only announcing [UK channel availability] today as a small pilot and to see how it goes - all of that says we have no intent to destabilise OEMs."
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