Microsoft Forfeits its Secret Weapon with Tablet Launch
It’s all been written already: The prototype’s got great CPU power; a big, high-res screen; cool, detachable keyboard; and promised access to a wide variety of Windows applications. Yes, Microsoft has re-entered the volume hardware device market. However, it’s doing it without the assistance of one of its biggest competitive weapons vs. Oracle, SAP, Hewlett-Packard and, most importantly, Apple — its authorized resellers.
As channel strategists and economists, we understand the cost considerations of trying to hit street prices profitably when taking a product through an indirect channel. Enlisting the support of traditional resellers (especially those that source through two-tier distribution) can be a very expensive proposition. We also recognize the immense opportunity for authorized Microsoft resellers to build applications, create private cloud systems and generally bill at lot of professional services in and around the Surface device – without ever touching the device itself. But, those would have been opportunities that existed around this product regardless of whether Microsoft channel partners get to resell the device. And there will be, of course, many Microsoft partners who wouldn’t ever be interested in transacting this device due to their exclusive focus on application development or the device’s inability to contribute to their profit targets.
What baffles me, however, is why Microsoft would go into hand-to-hand combat with Apple without one of its most important competitive assets. It’s such a huge advantage for Microsoft, especially for a product that’s squarely positioned as the laptop/netbook killer in the corporate mobility world. Yes, I’m sure the device will get a healthy dose of sexy merchandising and will sell well through the Microsoft retail stores. But, the real battle for greenfield market share with this product will be for Windows-based mobile workforce applications in larger midmarket and enterprise accounts – the very place where Microsoft should be leveraging the relationships and influence of its broad and strong authorized reseller community. A community, by the way, it has been investing billions in for nearly three decades. A community whose sales influence far outweighs what Apple can wield (or ever has wielded) in the B2B corporate selling space.
If Microsoft wants its channel partners to continually reinvent themselves as IT-as-a-service experts, selling a combination of professional services, devices and customized applications to solve specific business process issues, why take one of the core elements of that formula off the table? Some notable Microsoft solution providers even indicated that the surprise-factor of announcing the product without the normal predisclosure to partners turned them off even further to the sales opportunity for the device. I’m sure Microsoft remembers that regardless of whether partners actively invest in its technology with training and marketing, they’re still asked to advise customers on it.
Everyone in the IT business loves innovation. We’re all techno-geeks on some level, publicly or privately. And we want to see someone give Apple a run for its money on mobile devices, if for no other reason than selfish consumerism. But, it’s illogical and disappointing to see the greatest software powerhouse in our industry make such a big investment without figuring out how to bring its volunteer army of 320,000 members along for the battle.
Am I a cynic? Share your thoughts with me at email@example.com.
Beth Vanni is VP of PartnerPath, which helps IT vendors elevate the impact of their partnering efforts. For more information on PartnerPath’s research or partnering development services, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.