Last year, Microsoft caused a stir after the company announced that both Dell and HP would sell its Surface Pro Windows tablets to their respective corporate customers. It should be noted that both Dell and HP offer Windows tablets and two-in-one devices that compete with the Surface lineup.
Today, Microsoft has recruited another major partner to help sell its hardware to more enterprises.
IBM has joined the Surface Enterprise Initiative, revealed Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, during the company's Worldwide Partner Conference, currently taking place in Toronto. "IBM will draw on their data and analytics expertise to create new industry-specific solutions for the financial services and consumer packaged goods sectors that take advantage of the unique capabilities of Surface devices," stated Mehdi in a July 12 announcement.
In 2014, IBM inked a similar deal with Apple as part of a wide-ranging mobile partnership. In addition to collaborating on iOS apps for the enterprise, IBM would offer iPhones and iPads directly to its business clients.
IBM's decision to serve as a solutions integrator for Microsoft Surface devices comes more than a decade after the IT systems provider sold its PC business to Lenovo, effectively exiting the market. Today, Lenovo continues to sell ThinkPad PCs, a highly regarded line of business laptops that helped popularize the form factor among corporate users. Despite the occasional security concern surrounding Lenovo's hardware, the ThinkPad brand has helped the Chinese device maker climb to the top of the worldwide PC market.
Another partner joined the ranks of the companies taking part in the Surface Enterprise Initiative today. Booz Allen Hamilton will offer Surface devices to governments, public sector and health care customers, said Mehdi.
Microsoft also launched a program that enables the company's IT service provider partners to offer Surface hardware as a service.
"Now our Cloud Solution Providers (who are also Surface Authorized Distributors) can offer Surface devices through a managed service offering to all of our [channel partners] and customers, alongside managed cloud services, Office 365, Windows 10 and relevant ISV software," stated Mehdi. Microsoft's launch partner is also a European cloud company.
Microsoft's checkered past as a hardware maker includes the continued fallout from the problematic acquisition of Nokia's smartphone business. Surface, however, has emerged as a bright spot that's contributing to the Redmond, Wash., technology giant's bottom line.
After a rough start with the Surface RT, a tablet that ran a version of Windows for ARM-powered tablets that isn't compatible with the vast library of Windows software for x86-based systems, Microsoft found its footing with the Surface Pro.
The business- and productivity-focused device has an innovative, albeit optional, keyboard cover and supports stylus input. The company followed up last year with its first laptop, the Surface Book, a two-in-one hybrid system that rivals—some would argue surpasses—the MacBook Pro in many respects.
So far, Microsoft's enterprise-centric hardware strategy seems to be paying off. Within the past year, "the Surface business has grown from generating $1 [billion] in revenue in a year to $1 [billion] in revenue per quarter," Mehdi said.
Editor's Note: Microsoft issued a clarification, stating that IBM and Booz Allen Hamilton would not act as Surface hardware resellers under the Surface Enterprise Initiative. Instead, they are solutions integrators, offering line-of-business apps and services for Surface devices and Windows 10.