Microsoft: Brits, grab our Surface Pro ten-incher for satisfaction in May

Hey, where's our cut, grumbles UK channel

Microsoft's Intel-powered Windows 8 Surface Pro laptop-tablet-thing will arrive in the UK within the next six weeks.

But while Brits will be able to order the 10.6" touchscreen-keyboard hybrid direct from the software giant, companies in the IT distribution chain are unlikely to get their hands on pallets of the Pro until months later.

And this could leave the door wide open for HP and Samsung to squeeze in a rival business-friendly tablet.

Writing on the Surface website, the product's general manager Brian Hall confirmed the slablet will land in Blighty and 18 other countries "before the end of May".

He boasted of Surface sales stateside where the Pro belatedly launched in February, and said the Redmond giant was now on top of availability cock-ups plaguing its higher-end model: retailers ran out of machines to flog soon after the computer went on sale in North America.

"One of our biggest challenges has been keeping 128GB Surface Pro in stock," Hall said.

"We've worked hard to increase availability, and most retail partners in the US and Canada as well as the Microsoft Store now have the 128GB product consistently in stock."

Despite repeated requests for comment by The Channel - including emailing CEO Steve Ballmer directly - Microsoft has refused to revealed its plans to distribute the Pro in the UK.

Redmond bypassed the distribution channel in Blighty by directly selling the ARM-powered Surface RT slab to punters - until it realised limiting the distribution had the hindered adoption of its new operating system and hardware combination. In response, it hauled in a bunch of retailers to stock the little-loved Windows 8 RT device.

Now, with the Pro, Microsoft is making the same mistake again. Perhaps more so as the x86-driven Surface Pro is more suited to business-to-business resellers and integrators than its less-powerful brother, the Surface RT.

Tim Couling, senior analyst at Canalys, said there is a "lot of demand from enterprise for the Pro and the channel wants to get involved".

But channel partners are usually warned two to three months before a product lands, yet James Napp, UK and Ireland boss at European reseller Bechtle, said his biz had received no information from Microsoft on the Surface Pro.

"This is a real missed opportunity for Microsoft," he told us. "They've blocked the corporate channel, the key channel, from getting hold of this product and opened the door for HP and Samsung."

In his view, Microsoft did not know how to effectively market Surface Pro to business customers. And another Microsoft partner told us he expected Microsoft to rethink its strategy within three months and enlist the help of enterprise channel firms. ®

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