Microsoft has authorised Insight, SCC, Misco, Softcat, Phoenix, Kelway and CCS Media as its first batch of UK "device resellers" as it finally gives its channel here access to its Surface tablet.
(Updated: Since we wrote this story yesterday afternoon, Microsoft has announced that Computacenter and SoftwareONE are also part of the scheme.)
The programme will see the nine VARs provide extended warranties and a variety of other value-added services around Microsoft's Surface Pro and RT slabs.
Additionally, Microsoft has hinted that it will broaden its UK distribution strategy for the devices over the coming months and Ingram Micro and Tech Data have been brought on board as distributors.
The move comes six weeks after Microsoft announced it had appointed 10 US VARs to take Surface into the commercial space in its home country. Channel expansion is now afoot not only in the UK but across most of western Europe – including France, Germany and Italy – as well as Canada.
"The addition of these authorised resellers greatly expands the reach of the Microsoft devices-and-services strategy, extending the company's family of devices enabled by cloud services to more organisations," said Peter King, director of the Devices Small, Medium Enterprises & Partners Group at Microsoft UK.
"We look forward to working closely with these partners to better serve their commercial customers. As we move quickly into future phases of this programme, we will activate more partners in more markets to sell Surface devices," he added.
Microsoft, whose reluctance to pursue a broad distribution strategy for the device earned the ire of analyst Context, said it would work to authorise additional UK partners "during the next few months".
Giles Norris, marketing manager at VAR Bechtle, said: "It is frustrating the way that Microsoft have handled the rollout, but we expect to have pan-European approval to sell the Surface in the next few days, which will give us a real advantage. We are excited to start shipping more volume and also have plenty of other Windows 8 tablet options from the likes of HP, Samsung and Lenovo, with which we are being very successful."
According to the rumour mill, Microsoft is separately looking to appoint three UK partners to take Surface to education customers.
As well as offering Microsoft's extended warranty and accidental damage, the nine newly authorised partners will also provide a range of value-add services including asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection, Microsoft said.
Andy Wright, director of vendor alliances at SCC, said: "For SCC, Surface was an obvious and logical choice. Adding it to the range of hardware we supply is consistent both with our strategy of supporting multiple devices and operating systems and also our stated intention to help companies and organisations transform the way they work."
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