Solution Providers Moving On From Surface To Alternative Tablets


Microsoft said it's taking a phased approach to Surface's rollout in the commercial market, but many solution providers say they're tired of waiting and moving on to other tablet offerings.

During D&H Distributing's New England Technology Show in Quincy, Mass., last week, several solution providers that participated in a CRN roundtable discussion said they are offering competing tablets in lieu of being able to resell Microsoft's Surface and Surface Pro tablets.

"I don't think Surface is a deal breaker for us," said Jay Shah, vice president of Compu-Tech in Wethersfield, Conn. "There are plenty of good alternatives out there."

[Related: VAR Roundtable: Surface Channel Frustrations (Video) ]

"There are much better options than Surface," said Aristeo Torres, owner of Post Computer Systems in Wilbraham, Mass. "Samsung has wonderful tablets. Asus has a great tablet."

Torres said he also partners with Lenovo and HP on the PC side, so there are tablet options there as well. However, he said the primary issue with Surface isn't the hardware itself but losing potential customers to retail. "When a customer says they can get a product online or from Staples, I ask them who's going to take care of it," Torres said. "And it really boils down to that question: Who's going to take care of that device?"

Susan Trahant, general manager of Land Computer in Peabody, Mass., said her company partners with HP and Lenovo on the client device side and isn't going to wait for Microsoft to make Surface products available. "As a VAR, we're going to sell what's available to us and present the best solution to our customers," Trahant said.

Last month Microsoft announced it had authorized 10 large account reseller (LAR) partners to sell Surface tablets under the new Microsoft Devices Program. While Microsoft said the program was just the first phase of the Surface rollout and that it would expand the program to more partners, the strategy doesn't sit well with many solution providers.

"I think it's pretty hypocritical [of Microsoft]," said Bob Gregory, president of system builder Ocean State Computers in Providence, R.I. " The bottom line is, whether there is a margin on it or not, we on some level represent Microsoft, and Surface is one more product that we'd be able to offer [to customers]." Gregory said he's received inquiries from customers about the Surface Pro but has had to direct those clients to Microsoft and retail stores.

Richard Trahant, president of Land Computer, said he isn't surprised by Microsoft's Surface strategy, though he is disappointed by the move.

"All OEMs put certain products through the channel, and other ones through retail, and others through very specific, high-volume resellers," Richard Trahant said. "This is pretty typical, believe it or not. It may even be a trial for them. They don't want to unleash a product in the channel and have 150,000 resellers saying it's terrible. So I think [the Surface rollout] is almost a test."

PUBLISHED AUG. 14, 2013