Microsoft Corp. is readying for a wider distribution of its Surface 2 tablet at launch than its first Surface tablet that was only available to buy directly from Microsoft for months after launch, according to a reseller partner.

Microsoft is recognizing the important role of partners in its new strategy to brand itself as a devices and services company, according to Keith Groom, the director of Microsoft Solutions at Softchoice Corp., a major Microsoft reseller in Canada. Microsoft is ready to back its new strategy with an marketing program and support staff for partners.

“This is a full-court press by Microsoft,” Groom says. “Microsoft’s strategy going forward is to enable hardware partners to sell their hardware devices.”

Members of the press will be attending an event in New York City Sept. 23 where Microsoft is expected to unveil its second-generation Surface tablet. Last fall, Microsoft launched the Surface RT tablet as the flagship device for Windows RT, breaking from its longtime practice on focusing on software and relying on hardware partners alone to support their operating systems. At that time, Microsoft used the tablet as a carrot to draw people into new Microsoft retail store locations, and drive direct online sales. But the strategy may not have worked as hoped with Microsoft disclosing a $900 million write-down on Surface RT tablets in its most recent quarterly earnings report.

Earlier this year, Microsoft launched the Surface Pro tablet featuring the full version of Windows 8. It also began selling Surface tablets at other retailers such as FutureShop and BestBuy, and in August it selected five Canadian resellers that would distribute the tablet to businesses.

If Microsoft is gearing up to enable its resellers to distribute Surface 2, then it is likely other retailers will also be selling the device at launch.

Demand for the already-launched Surface tablets in Canada has been “OK,” Groom says. Some Softchoice customers are buying the tablets for testing and development, but no large roll outs have been completed. Groom says about 60 per cent of the orders are for the Pro tablet and 40 per cent are for the RT.

Microsoft’s advantage in making its own hardware is that it can pre-install software like Office, he says, allowing buyers to get to work with an integrated device right out of the box.

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