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Posted by Tirthankar Sen on July 31, 2013
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:
Microsoft will eventually need to open the market to a larger base of partners, including its solution providers. This is critical for expanding geographic reach and targeting the enormous base of mid-market and SMBs, while also driving increased value by bundling Surface with business solutions. To do this, Microsoft must create a collaborative platform to enable its ecosystem of partners to come together and deliver high value joint solutions to enterprise customers. In the near term, I believe Microsoft is correct in being selective in its partner recruitment process and focusing on high-volume resellers to build market share as the critical first step in competing more effectively in the tablet market.
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