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No UK date, no biz disties: Will Microsoft cock-up the Surface Pro too?

Office PC replacement not being sold to offices, say insiders

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Microsoft may be playing its cards too closely to his chest for its Windows 8 Surface Pro slate: there's no word on a UK launch date nor any effort to bring the business-to-business distribution channel onside.

As revealed yesterday, the Intel-powered Pro slab - billed as an office PC replacement - will be rolled out in North America via Microsoft's own retail stores, the microsoft.com website and a handful of retailers in just over a fortnight - a little later than planned.

But the UK launch date, and any master plan to involve distribution partners that sell to professionals, remain secrets that are closely guarded by the marketing ninjas in Redmond.

"We haven't announced any B2B channel plans yet and have only said US and Canada so far," said a Microsoft PR handler.

Roll back a couple of months and recall that Microsoft punted ARM-powered Surface RT gear directly to customers. Analysts claimed sales were sluggish and retailers were eventually brought into the fold.

The touchscreen-laptop-tablet Surface Pro is pitched as a PC replacement - reflected by its not insignificant $899 entry-level price point - and some channel insiders expressed incredulity that they haven't been given more info by Microsoft.

"Microsoft is keeping its card very close to its chest," said one large partner. "Pro is not a cheap bit of kit and it's got to be a PC replacement. That is where it'll be marketed, therefore it amazes me that the B2B channel is not being involved."

Microsoft tends to rely on its army of business-to-business channel warriors to supply its commercial customers worldwide. Despite this, disties report they are far from buckling under the weight of demand from resellers; one claimed it was receiving only "gentle interest".

The same seems to be said of Windows 8 Pro tablets, said a wholesaler.

"Am I selling lots of Pro tablets from other vendors? No. Availability is OK but demand isn't massive. They're not flying out of the door," he said.

Demand for cheaper priced Android-based tabs and iPads seems be overshadowing Windows slabs. ®

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