UK resellers have backed Microsoft's decision to further delay the launch of the Surface Hub, which they now do not expect to begin shipping until April.
Last summer, Microsoft announced it would limit the large-screen collaboration device designed for meeting rooms to audiovisual specialists, separate from the rest of its Surface channel. It then appointed 38 resellers worldwide who could sell the device, with 20 in EMEA (see full list below). These resellers will be able to buy the device through local distributors which in the UK is Maverick Tech Data.
The launch was originally scheduled for 1 September, but this was delayed until January because of "manufacturing issues", CRN sister publication The Inquirer reported. Now the release has been held back once more, and Microsoft's Windows and Surface lead Ryan Asdourian (pictured below) suggested to CRN the hold-up was again due to manufacturing problems.
"I think with any product, one of the things that's super important to us is quality," he said. "We are making sure a product like this releases with the highest level of quality when it ends up in customers' hands."
A statement a Microsoft representative sent to CRN said the launch is set to go ahead in the coming months.
"We are still on track to ship the first Surface Hub devices to customers early this year," it said. "We are excited about the impact this new category of device will have on transforming how people collaborate at work."
Will Hegan, EMEA sales director at AVI-SPL, an authorised Hub reseller, said he expects Microsoft to begin shipping the first units in April and then to have full stock allocated in June.
"The reality is in the UK we probably won't see stock until April, but by June they should be up to the full run rate where they can fulfil any orders," he said.
He added that while he does not anticipate Microsoft being able to meet all orders initially, he is happy with the company's openness.
"They are giving us the tools to manage the expectations of the clients," he said. "They are feeding their expectations in terms of what's going to hit different markets and what our stock allocations will be and we are allowed to pass that on to our clients."
This potential for stock privations would not be unique to the Hub, with resellers also currently experiencing shortages of the i7 model of the Surface Pro 4s owing to "exceptional demand", Asdourian said. One partner, who did not wish to be named, said such shortages have also cast doubts over whether or not Microsoft is ready for the release of the Surface Book, which is due out today.
Horse before the cart
Hegan said that he was not frustrated by the delays to the Hub, but happy that Microsoft is taking the time to make sure the launch goes smoothly.
"We would have loved to start selling it a year ago, but they have kept us completely informed and managed the process really well," he said. "It has given us enough time to get every single one of our sales guys trained and every single technical staff [member] trained. The reality is that we go to market better prepared than we would have done if they came out immediately.
"We have seen other manufacturers with rival products come out when they are not ready and it's irrefutably damaged their reputation," he said. "So we are of the opinion that waiting for the right time was the right thing for Microsoft to do."
Microsoft was originally set to release the device before the arrival of Windows 10, and this was "putting the cart before the horse," he said.
Hegan said the reception among customers has been hugely positive and he has already taken "a lot" of pre-orders in the UK.
"In terms of market potential it's absolutely massive," he said. "The Lync and more recently Skype for Business owns the desktop from a communication standpoint and Microsoft has made a strategic play in terms of aligning a hardware platform to offer an end-to-end solution so they can take the Skype for Business platform into the meeting room."
Jennifer Turnbull, marketing director at authorised Hub reseller Viju, said she was also not too concerned by the hold-ups to the release.
"The shipments have been prolonged, but clients can pre-order and we are already receiving orders so I wouldn't say we're frustrated at this stage," she said.
"We have a Surface Hub for demonstration purposes, so we are very excited about it," she said. "There is a lot of hype in the market and a lot of interest. We have had multiple conversations around the Surface Hub and its opening doors to new clients."
She said there wasn't anything like this in the market with this level of interest.
Turnbull also expected shipments to start coming through in April.
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