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Microsoft: That $900m Surface write-down is smarting

'Direct sales failed us, please help channel'

Microsoft Surface tablets

Microsoft will today kick-start commercial channel sales of the little loved Surface RT and Pro, as our sources predicted, but the move is being pushed through ten months later than it should have been.

Redmond has already paid the price for its stubbornness: selling the device direct and latterly through a handful of retailers proved to be a desperately ill-judged decision that cost the company $900m in write-downs for the RT alone.

This is not to say that Microsoft didn't throw money to advertise the product, it did, Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of green backs, but it refused to use channel salesmen to evangelise the slabs.

Finally Microsoft has enrolled nine big hitters in the UK channel for a pilot including Insight, Computacenter, SCC, Kelway, Misco, Phoenix Software, Softcat, SoftwareONE and CCS Media.

In a canned statement, Peter King, UK director of devices for the small, medium enterprise and partner group at Microsoft, said:

"The addition of these authorised resellers greatly expands the reach of the Microsoft devices-and-services strategy".

Microsoft acknowledged that on top of pushing its extended warranty and accidental damage, channel partners will also provide asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection.

Despite the failure that Surface RT has been so far - accounting for just 0.5 per cent tablet shipments in Q2, which equated to 200,000 units in a global market that consumed more than 40 million - Microsoft is working on a second generation.

The device is deemed the most suited to showcase er… Windows 8 8.1, as hapless CEO Steve Ballmer claimed at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in 2012 when he referred to Surface as a design reference point.

Tech Data and Ingram Micro will distribute Surface to resellers as part of Microsoft's Devices Programme, meaning the hardware will be rolled out to the wider partner base, assuming the pilot is not a disaster.

King added that "as we move quickly into future phases of this programme, we will activate more partners in more markets to sell Surface devices".

Channel partners in the UK involved in the sales push will cheer the move by Microsoft, but must surely be eyeing their counterparts in the US that have been selling were authorised to sell Surface devices since the start of July.

This month Redmond took action to jump-start sales by slicing $100 off the price tag of the Pro, just after cuts to the RT in June and July. ®

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