Usually, businesses are the last to adopt any kind of new gadget, given that they actually rely on laptops, tablets and smartphones to make money and can’t risk any first-day adoption glitches.
Not so with the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft’s upcoming laptop-tablet hybrid. According to Microsoft, a few big names are already starting to order the newfangled device for their employees.
“The Surface Pro 4 sweet spot is, ‘I want a tablet, but need a laptop,” says Microsoft Director of Surface Cyril Belikoff.
Today, Microsoft is announcing that Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, the car dealership arm of Warren Buffett’s legendary corporate holding company, has already ordered Surface Pro 4 tablets for their employees — and 12 other companies, including USI Insurance and the Land O’ Lakes dairy giant, have done the same.
Microsoft isn’t giving out any specific numbers for unit sales, but it said that all of these deals are in the hundreds to thousands of units. Belikoff says that the Surface Pro 4 is the fastest-adopted Surface device in the enterprise. Now it wants to keep the momentum going, with this news and a slew of other announcements.
Why Surface for business?
Microsoft’s sales pitch is simple: The Surface Pro 4 is a good-looking, light, touchscreen tablet that also runs every piece of Windows software from Windows 7 onwards.
So if you’re a doctor, you can take your old apps that have traditionally been tied to the PC in the office, and now bring them out to your patients.
There’s a reason the tablet portion of Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Book laptop is called the “clipboard.” Because the Surface tablets come with the Surface Pen stylus, it can be used for note-taking, right alongside the old-school apps.
Those Berkshire Hathaway Automotive employees, for example, will be using it as a laptop at their desks, but as a tablet when they’re with customers. Using the Surface Pro 4 as a tablet lets them show off how good their new car would look with extra features and different colours, thus closing the time to sale.
With the world slowly waking up to the potential of a tablet in the workplace, Microsoft made a series of additional announcements that are designed to remove a businesses’ resistances to the Surface Pro 4, one by one, and get them on board.
Microsoft’s resellers are key
Microsoft said there are 5,000 resellers across the United States helping get the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book laptop into the hands of businesspeople, joining big names like Dell and HP that have been doing the same.
It’s a crucial stat. Lots of businesses around the world depend on these resellers, also called “value-added resellers” or “VARs,” to help them buy and deploy new technology like the Surface Pro 4.
So if resellers love what Microsoft is up to, it gives the Surface Pro 4 a lot more potential customers. And given that Microsoft says that it only had a “few hundred” Surface resellers as recently as July, the fact that 5,000 resellers are now on board suggested resellers are warming up to the idea.
Of course, not everyone is on board: Lenovo recently declined to resell the Surface Pro 3, saying that the gadget competed too directly with its own line of tablets and laptops.
Extending the warranty
And if that isn’t enough, Microsoft also announced a couple of new programs to support Surfaces in the workplace:
Previously, Microsoft’s enterprise warranty plans gave a certain limit of warranty repairs per user, and you’d have to pay for overages.
A new Microsoft Complete for Enterprise warranty plan lets a company pool together all of the warranty claims they buy from Microsoft, instead of setting a hard limit per Surface device.
So if your CEO keeps dropping his Surface Pro 4, but everyone else is more careful, the CEO can just keep sending it in for repairs and counting it against the corporate total. Plus, with this new plan, it will come via next-day air.
Microsoft is also letting enterprises trade in their older Surface Pro tablets towards the new hotness, the exact same way that a consumer might do at Best Buy. This is an ongoing program, not a promotion, and intended to help enterprises if and when they want to upgrade their fleets of Surface Pros, outside their normal buying cycle.
All of this boils down to one idea: Microsoft really wants Surface Pro tablets in the workplace. And it’s going to figure out all the reasons why businesses wouldn’t buy one, and then it’s going to fix them, one by one.
Reistance is futile.