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Microsoft turns to Dell to push the Surface Pro into enterprise

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 10, 2015
'Selling devices is harder than it looks,' says analyst of deal that leans on Dell's enterprise sales and support.

Gillen was alone in wondering whether the Dell partnership hints at Microsoft backing out of in-house Surface sales.

"In some respects, it gives Microsoft a missing piece of what they needed to move more Surface Pro devices," countered Moorhead, sticking to the interpretation of a distribution deal. "There's a lot more to it than just having a really good product when you're dealing with a Fortune 500 company."

Neither Microsoft nor Dell said whether the deal is an exclusive, but Moorhead believes it is, at least a time-constrained one, pointing out that Microsoft posted a video clip of Dell CEO Michael Dell promoting the partnership. "Innovation isn't just about great devices. It's about partnerships that bring together products, software and services to deliver extraordinary customer value," said Dell.

"I don't think Michael Dell would have done a video if this was a temporary exclusive," said Moorhead.

Others will follow Dell into what Microsoft has labeled the Surface Enterprise Initiative, including Hewlett-Packard, Accenture and Avanade, but no timeline for those additions was mentioned.

The arrangement also demonstrated that 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro are, if not replacing large numbers of traditional personal computers in businesses, at least attracting attention. IDC's Mainelli referenced his research firm's projection that 2-in-1 shipments would nearly double in 2015, to 14.7 million units.

"Enterprises are interested in the form factor," Mainelli asserted.

Nor was the timing of yesterday's announcement coincidental, Mainelli and Moorhead contended, both pointing to today's Apple event, where the firm is expected to unveil a larger iPad, purportedly called the iPad Pro, to take on the Surface Pro and other 2-in-1s.

"If Apple comes out with [an iPad Pro 2-in-1], I'd put Microsoft at neutral to potentially negative," said Moorhead in an earlier interview this week. "But in the short term, anyone who does a 2-in-1 will benefit from the Apple iPad Pro. Whether it's Microsoft or HP or Dell or Lenovo, they'll get a short marketing benefit because they'll pitch it as validating the market."


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