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:
While working on my recently published report, The Cloud-Driven Evolution Of Asian Tech Distributors, the tech vendors and distributors I interviewed drew parallels between telcos and tech distributors, both of which sell cloud-based solutions. However, during further discussion, the friction and competitiveness between the two quickly became apparent. So why should they compete when they can exploit each other’s resources and pursue joint go-to-market initiatives? By partnering, each can focus on doing what it does best to meet customer needs.
Telcos’ reach, ready infrastructure and existing customer bases provide a solid cloud foundation:
Back-end infrastructure. Telcos’ robust network and data center infrastructure is critical to setting up and delivering cloud-based services swiftly and without massive additional investment. Moreover, their businesses are well-suited to annuity models.
An existing base of enterprise customers. Although telcos aren’t considered a strategic enterprise provider in most instances, their access to a large base of qualified enterprise accounts and existing relationships potentially provides a very good foundation for cloud solution sales.