Starting in early October, corporate customers will be able to buy Microsoft's Surface Pro hardware, along with its accessories, not from Microsoft but from Dell. Dell will provide sales, servicing, warranties, and replacements in addition to offering corporate-friendly configuration and deployment options. The new scheme will initially start in the US and spread to the Surface's other 28 markets early next year.
When Microsoft first announced that it was building hardware, it meant that for the first time the software company was competing directly against the OEM partners on which it was heavily dependent. Acer in particular was vocal in its criticism of the move, but we struggle to believe that any of the PC OEMs were happy about Microsoft muscling in on their turf. The new venture suggests that whatever concerns the OEMs may once have had are now water under the bridge.
In some ways, the new pairing is similar to the partnership between Apple and IBM, under which IBM would provide enterprise support and servicing for iPads. The situation is a little different, insofar as Microsoft already had strong direct links to enterprises. Apple didn't. What Microsoft doesn't have, however, is the support infrastructure for enterprise hardware. When the Surface line was first introduced, any kind of enterprise sales were tricky, as Microsoft's stores weren't really equipped for this kind of business. The situation improved as the company added additional enterprise-oriented sales channels, though it still left Surface's support options relatively weak when compared to those of other OEMs.