HP, Dell join Microsoft’s Surface enterprise push

HP and Dell are the first partners to work with Microsoft to sell Surface Pro tablets to enterprise accounts. More partners will follow as Microsoft embarks on a programme to push Windows 10 and Surface devices to large companies.

It is a surprisingly creative move by both Dell and HP. In Dell’s case it shows the kind of flexible thinking made possible when the company went private.

If anything HP’s decision is even more interesting. As the company prepares to break into two separate businesses the move demonstrates how HP Enterprise will prioritise meeting customer needs over pushing out own-brand products at every opportunity.

The move will help Microsoft win market share for the Surface Pro 3. That’s important, but a bigger priority is to accelerate enterprise acceptance of Windows 10. While Windows 8 was a disappointment everywhere, it had a poor reception from large companies.

Microsoft followed its long-term history of getting the Surface Pro product right at the third attempt. Sales of the Surface Pro 3 grew by almost 120 percent in the last year. Microsoft’s latest quarterly report shows the company earned US$888 million from the devices and sales are on track to top $1 billion each quarter.

Surface Pro 3 is already a minor hit with enterprise customers, now Microsoft aims to capitalise on that by extending its reach and scope.

To do that Microsoft needs to meet the demanding requirements of enterprise hardware buyers who expect high levels of support and global services.

That’s where HP and Dell can add value to Microsoft’s hardware. The pair will offer their own enterprise-grade services and apps with Microsoft’s hardware.

Dell says its direct sales force will start selling Surface Pro hardware in October alongside its own business tablets. Later this year the Surface will be available through Dell’s online store. Early next year it will extend its coverage to 28 other countries — most likely this will include New Zealand.

Even though sales don’t start for another month, the timing of Microsoft’s announcement is significant. Tomorrow is a big Apple event. There’s a possibility Apple may announce its own plans for a business-oriented version of the iPad — something that would compete head-on with the Surface Pro 3.