Can the channel help break the Surface in business?

Opinion

Can the channel help break the Surface in business?

So Microsoft has decided it needs to recruit resellers to sell the Surface tablet to corporate customers. Good news for resellers? On the face of it, yes. But what does it say about Microsoft’s tablet that the vendor is having to push it through the reseller channel at all?

The sad fact is that the Surface hasn’t exactly fired the imagination of ordinary folks in the same way that Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy have. According to IDC, Microsoft sold 900,000 Surfaces in the fourth quarter and another 900,000 in the first quarter but those figures are well down on the figures analysts had expected.

Anyone looking for evidence that Microsoft had not sold as many Surface tablets as expected had their suspicions or prejudices confirmed last month when the software giant slashed the price of its Surface RT product from $499 to $199 for schools.

Now we have the push into corporate too.

In terms of trying to boost sales, there’s no harm in Microsoft’s attempts to widen the potential customer base for the Surface.

But there is in terms of perception.

Microsoft was late to the tablet party compared to Apple and Samsung. Initial Windows tablets had proved uninspiring, forcing Microsoft to take on the onus of designing and manufacturing its own Windows 8-based tablets.

The problem is that Microsoft’s very public involvement in the Windows tablet market hasn’t done anything yet to accelerate demand in that space. Worse still, by failing to spark a sales bonanza at the retail level, Microsoft has been forced to adopt measures that run counter to the BYOD trend.

Bring your own device has risen to prominence due to the adoption, independently, of platforms such as the iPad and Galaxy by employees who have bought these devices for their own use. Microsoft’s decision to make the Surface available to the reseller channel suggests it can’t convince enough people to buy the tablet for their own use and has opted, instead, to adopt its usual fall-back position of getting employers to buy its products.

While this move plays to Microsoft’s traditional strengths in the enterprise, it also clearly demonstrates the vendor’s limitations in the home market. Whether it succeeds is open to question. But the perception is that Microsoft is still on the wrong side of the BYOD line.

In fact, Microsoft’s approach could essentially drop the Y altogether in favour of convincing companies to adopt a BOD (bring our device) policy. That might work but I suspect a lot of workers being told they need to pay for the privilege of using a Surface are going to add their own “why” to any BOD policy an employer tries to impose on them.


Image credit: Thinkstock

This was first published in July 2013

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