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The clock is ticking for Microsoft to get its house in order before Surface Pro launches in the UK business distribution channel in the middle of next month, say our people on the inside.

As revealed by El Chan this week, five resellers are talking to Microsoft execs in Redmond about stocking the slab: Misco, Insight, Kelway, SCC and Computacenter.

Microsoft initially kept schtumm, but then later issued a press release stating it will work with three distributors - Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Synnex - in the US to supply 10 authorised Surface biz resellers under the Microsoft Device Programme.

It added that channels will also be primed in other countries in the coming months, but gave no details.

But The Channel can reveal the UK launch date is set for 15 August, and Tech Data's local subsidiary Computer 2000 and rival Ingram Micro will act as wholesalers in Blighty.

Other Microsoft distributors will not get a whiff, neither will the thousands of Microsoft resellers not included in the first tranche of channel partners to get Surface. This has not gone down well.

Reseller partners are bursting with questions for Microsoft on the processes and procedures that corporate customers demand - which impacts the total cost of ownership beyond the initial box price.

The software titan said yesterday that resellers will be able to sell its extended warranty and accidental damage coverage, but potential partners want to know more.

"What is the warranty/ replacement process?" asked one. "HP takes all that pain away from the reseller. Microsoft will not scrimp but nobody knows how this will work".

On its website, Microsoft lists Surface as having a standard one year warranty and 90 days of technical support. It also offers a two year extended hardware warranty and technical support. It does not however reveal if the warranty offers back to base repairs, or a swap out.

Channel partners also raised other questions related to corporate standards including the critically important mean time before failure, the availability of spare parts and accessories, and if keyboards are available in different foreign languages.

"Multi-national companies need different versions," said one.

The device is considered the "best Windows tablet on the market, though that is not saying much at the moment. But Surface is more expensive than ultrabooks and the iPad is a better tablet," added one Channeleer.

"No corporate in their right mind will have Surface as a standard device unless these things are rolled out. Until they are it will remain a niche product," the reseller claimed.

Resellers had viewed tablets as a "big volume [sales] opportunity" said Alastair Edwards, principal analyst at Canalys - but he said research suggested this was not the case, at least in the small biz space.

He said tablets are not in fact productivity devices that are replacing PCs.

"Will there be large scale corporate wide deployments? I am not sure but SME research suggests this will not necessarily be the case".

Microsoft pointed to us to a blog post from Jenni Flinders, veep of US partner group, but she did not address the specific issues raised by channel partners. ®

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