Microsoft Announces Series of Partnerships Aimed at Pushing Surface Devices into the Enterprise

Esther Shein

Microsoft and IBM are partnering on a deal to develop new applications specifically for Surface tablets, in a move Microsoft hopes will make the devices more attractive to enterprises. The partnership is one of a few the company announced earlier this week.

Microsoft launched its Surface Enterprise Initiative last year and partnered with Dell on services and support. Some 800 enterprise customers are now using Surface devices, including the National Football League and Emirates airline, IDG News Service reported. Although worldwide PC shipments declined in the first quarter of 2016, IDC is projecting they will “experience a modest rebound in the coming months.”

IBM will utilize its analytics and enterprise applications expertise to create industry-specific software for financial services and consumer packaged goods (CPG)/retail companies, Microsoft said. One application in particular, will let CPG and retail companies better understand how to optimize employee time from their Surface devices. The app presents visualized diagrams of organizational and industry data along with reports so business leaders can make more informed decisions on how to maximize employee productivity and minimize staffing costs.

“Many of our clients have requested mobile solutions for Surfaces that are tailored to their business needs,” said Murray Mitchell, global leader, Microsoft Services at IBM, in a statement. “IBM will design Surface solutions that allow financial services and CPG employees to tap in to their company’s information on-the-go.” The mobile apps will be developed to complement a client’s existing infrastructure, “creating dynamic, new mobile experiences uniquely suited to the needs of their employees.”

Besides employee productivity, other enterprise apps will be designed for reporting, management and forecasting. Microsoft said there has been strong demand for Surface devices within the government and public sectors in particular. Surface received security and interoperability certification from the US Department of Defense earlier this year.

The company also announced a partnership with Booz Allen to develop applications specifically for government, public sector and healthcare workers, with a focus on security and device manageability. 

In another move to push more Surface devices into the enterprise, Microsoft also launched its Surface as a Service program for its cloud providers to offer the devices through a managed services plan to resellers and customers on a subscription model. “This new offering [enables] faster device refresh, more flexible purchasing options, and ensures customers can have the latest Surface devices that evolve with the best Windows and Office have to offer,’’ Microsoft said. 

Microsoft sells the Surface Pro 4 tablet, the Surface Book and the Surface Hub, a PC inside an 84-inch 4K touchscreen display. And while still available, it will discontinue selling the Surface 3, the consumer version of the tablet, at the end of 2016.