Nine months after the launch of its Surface tablet, Microsoft has announced an expanded business distribution channel for commercial customers to purchase the tablet.
The first phase of this expansion allows commercial customers — including enterprise corporations, government agencies and educational institutions — to buy the tablets through newly authorized distributors, including CDW, En Pointe Technologies and PCM Inc, as well as many more. The resellers will be able to offer Microsoft’s extended warranty and accidental damage protection, as well as a variety of other services such as online service and support, custom imaging and data protection.
The push toward enterprise, government and education is likely an attempt by Microsoft to improve the reach of Surface, which in the first quarter of this year sold around 900,000 units (Surface and Surface Pro combined). That number gives Surface a market share of 1.8 percent, putting it in fifth place behind Apple, Samsung, ASUS and Amazon.
However, Microsoft has opportunity for growth in this space. Earlier this year a Forrester Research study showed that 32 percent of global information workers want the Windows 8 operating system on their next tablet. This indicates a desire for the Surface tablet to be more attractive to enterprise clients, to whom Microsoft appears to be catering.
This makes sense, as the Windows operating system is ubiquitous in office PC across the world — it’s only natural to want to extend the same platform across more devices. IT departments also favor extending Windows, pointing to the many security measures already developed for it.
To cater to this, Microsoft also announced the new Apps For Surface independent software vendors (ISV) program, which “provides devices and funding for app design intended to get key enterprise apps on Surface and Windows 8,” according to the press release. This will add even more programs to the list of Surface apps available. Importantly, Surface tablets already can run Microsoft Office apps, and Surface Pro tablets can run existing Windows 7 desktop apps.
Whether this will provide the push Microsoft needs to make Surface a major player in the tablet market remains to be seen, but the company does seem to be responding to business clients’ desires. These new developments are being rolled out in limited form in the United States now, and will be expanded to other countries and other distributors in the coming months.
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