In a move that sent a wave of confusion through the channel, Microsoft this week launched its Surface Enterprise Initiative under which both Dell and Hewlett-Packard will support and resell Microsoft Surface Pro devices.
That initiative appears to resolve a longstanding conflict between Microsoft and two of its primary OEM partners. When Microsoft first developed the Surface tablets, Dell and Hewlett-Packard decried Microsoft’s efforts to first sell the devices direct and then via the Microsoft base of channel partners. In fact, both vendors said it would be only a matter of time before the Windows tablets they manufactured would supplant the Microsoft Surface tablets.
Now it appears that not only have Dell and HP had a change of heart, Microsoft itself may be signaling it needs to help both companies deal with demand for its tablet in the enterprise.
Jack Gold, principal analyst with J.Gold Associates, said that under the leadership of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, all previous business decisions are clearly subject to review.
“At a price point of $1,000, the Surface is not really a consumer product,” said Gold. “Microsoft must have decided they need the capabilities of HP and Dell to support those customers.”
As part of this initiative, Microsoft also revealed that it has recruited Accenture along with Avanade, a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture, to participate in the initiative.
Gold noted that this is the second reversal of a major mobile computing initiative made by Nadella. After a series of write-downs, it now appears Microsoft is once again focused on the Windows Phone operating system, rather than the actual mobile handset.
For solution providers, the issue has always been how much to focus on the devices versus the applications and processes they enable. Margins on mobile computing devices have always been razor thin, and PC manufacturers other than Lenovo have not made much headway against Apple. Microsoft, meanwhile, has enjoyed more success with its Surface tablets, which Gold noted ultimately convinced Dell and HP that the time had come to line up more closely behind Microsoft before ceding the rest of the market to Apple or Lenovo.
No matter what the outcome, however, one thing that is certain is that while the price of a mobile computing device will continue to drop over time, the business value of the applications running on those devices is only going to increase.
Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.