Microsoft's Selective Partner Resale Strategy For Surface: Short-term Benefits, Longer-term Challenges

Microsoft (MSFT) recently announced plans to sell Surface tablets to enterprise customers, including educational institutions, through a two-tier partner program called Microsoft Devices Program (MDP). The program authorizes distributors to sell Surface to a newly designated group of device-authorized large account resellers (LARs). Per the announcement, in the US, Surface will be resold through three authorized distributors (Ingram Micro Inc., SYNNEX Corporation, and Tech Data Corporation) and 10 high volume LARs. MDP is likely to be expanded to select partners in 28 other countries by the end of September 2013. As part of the initial go-to-market model, Microsoft is not including its solution providers in the program.  

Based on recent media reports, Microsoft’s US partners -- solution providers in particular -- have expressed dissatisfaction with Microsoft’s selective approach towards partnering for Surface. Solution providers feel Microsoft is ignoring the opportunity to deliver “wrap-around services” around Surface, which they could have delivered.

I believe that in the near term, Microsoft is correct in limiting access; but, in the longer term, it will need to open up to other partners, including solution providers that can help Microsoft deliver Surface-based solutions as a means to ensure differentiation in the tablet market and drive margins. Microsoft needs to follow some key guidelines as part of Surface’s go-to-market strategy if it wants to stand above the crowd:

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Cisco Sets A Positive Course For Partners - Notes From Boston

I attended my fifth Cisco Worldwide Partner Summit in Boston the first week of June. As always, the first day’s keynote presentation by John Chambers was impressive and covered market transitions, opportunities, future big bets, and how Cisco can work better with its partners. John also stressed the need for partners to embrace change and move to a new business model.

Building on this presentation, Cisco made three key announcements at its partner summit, which I’m highlighting below because I believe they are especially important for partners that operate in Asia Pacific (AP) markets:   

  • Cisco has committed to doubling its investment in the mid-market space globally from US$75 million to US$150 million in FY2014: Typically perceived as a large enterprise-focused company by partners and mid-sized businesses alike, Cisco’s announcement that it would double its investment in demand generation activities, building its mid-market portfolio through new products (e.g., the  low-cost router developed in India) and through acquisitions (e.g., Meraki), and  incentivizing sales people is very timely.  With a large mid-sized business population in Asia Pacific, proactive efforts toward creating a mid-market brand will help establish Cisco more firmly in the space.
  • Cisco dCloud, a cloud-based demonstration service for partners, is now available:  One of the major challenges for AP-based partners is their inability to invest in costly demo equipment or visit vendor demo solution centers. The availability of Cisco dCloud will not only help partners increase their chances of winning a deal, but also potentially help them reduce the sales cycle, making it a profitable deal.
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