At this point most partners have come to the conclusion that actually selling Microsoft's Surface tablet isn't as important as selling what the Surface does in a more well-rounded business plan.
If you're in the same camp, Microsoft has some good news. At the National Retail Federation show in New York City this week, the company announced two third-party development partners with suites of hardware, software and gateway offerings for secure online and mobile transactions that turn the Surface into a point-of-sale (POS) device.
Microsoft has inked a deal with payments technology specialist Anywhere Commerce to integrate its next-generation mobile POS systems into Surface devices.
Redmond is also working with magnetic card reader and cheque-scanner manufacturer Magtek to deliver POS peripherals that support Surface.
Expect to see MagTek's enterprise-grade uDynamo, BulleT, and DynaPro and Dynamag readers ultimately becoming a part of a more complete Surface retail offering, company executives say.
For Microsoft - which already works with companies such as AmorActive, Anthro and Incipio to deliver charging, jacket and display accessories that harden the Surface for the retail environment - the move is a direct assault on Apple's iPad.
The iPad is already getting a lot of traction in retail, thanks largely to integration with consumer-grade add-ons like the Square credit card reader.
Microsoft is clearly trying to go one better with tablets in the storefront.
"Retailers need to make careful, informed choices when working to realise the benefits of assisted selling and mPOS devices," said Cyril Belikoff, director of Microsoft's Surface initiative.
"Many are realising that force-fitting consumer devices for use in the retail setting can create unanticipated challenges requiring the purchase of additional IT tools to manage the devices, or re-building existing line-of-business (LOB) applications for the new operating systems.
"Together with these best in class retail partnerships, Surface is delivering an offering for retailers, enabling next-generation POS, endless aisles, more mobile store managers and real time gathering of info from field teams," Belikoff said.
From a partner perspective, channel-driven managed and professional services related to POS systems remain an admittedly small part of the total IT marketplace.
But expanding the POS potential to non-traditional IT equipment could open opportunities for providers, particularly on the SMB level where smaller retailers lack the expertise to manage these devices.
It could also mean big opportunities on the enterprise level, as kiosks and POS systems are often distributed in remote locations that require local skilled help.
While the Surface device itself was never delivered in a channel-friendly manner, any effort to dress it up with functionality that supports broader business services could elevate the fondle-slab from partner pariah to channel chum.
For US Channelnomics coverage, see www.channelnomics.com
Vendor's announcements include AI-powered Microsoft Office, a move away from password verification and an alliance with Adobe and SAP
Vendor claims hackers are hijacking machines to mine for cryptocurrency
Nearly half of SMBs are planning to invest in digital workflows to reduce their paper-based processes by 2025, according to Quocirca
The charter has pulled together the biggest names in tech in an unprecedented attempt to address the tech industry's lack of diversity. Tom Wright asks how it plans to do it