In one of the more interesting examples of competition and partnership getting all mixed up, a number of Microsoft original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are reselling Microsoft's Surface line of Windows machines. While such a practice seems strange on its face--why would Dell, which makes products that compete with Surface Pro, want to sell Microsoft's competitive product?--there's a one-word answer for why it make sense: enterprise.
Simply put, companies like Dell and HP, who are participating in the program, have large enterprise customers under contract for hardware and support. Those customers obviously demand Surface, including the Surface Pro 3, and Microsoft has stepped in with an innovative approach to help their OEMs support these customers without destroying their relationships. It's a win-win for everyone, at least on paper, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella lays out in the video below.
According to The Register, not everyone agrees. Lenovo has passed on participation in the program, citing competitive concerns.
Pressed further, [Lenovo President and COO Gianfranco Lanci] revealed that Microsoft “asked me more than one year ago, and I said no I don’t see any reason why I should sell a product from within brackets, competition.”
He said Lenovo views Microsoft as a “partner on certain things”, and a “competitor” in other scenarios, meaning that “we will need to be a little bit careful”.
From The Guardian story, we get the distinct impression that although Dell and HP are partnering with Microsoft on offering the Surface line to their enterprise customers, they're not necessarily terribly happy about doing so. HP, for example, continues to push its own product line over Surface (as does Dell), and doesn't even pay their salespeople for the hardware component of deals based on the Surface line.
Interestingly, HP Inc. CEO Dion Weisler pointed out how Microsoft spent $2 billion creating the Surface-like hybrid market segment, even as his own company has now leveraged that segment with their own product.
“Would I spend $2bn creating a Windows Surface type category? No way. Is Michael Dell going to do it? He didn’t do it either and neither did Gianfranco [at Lenovo]. We don’t create those kind of categories on behalf of somebody else," said Weisler.
In the end, it would appear that Microsoft's partners are indeed impacted by the Surface line of products, and not in the best ways possible. Microsoft is definitely walking a fine line between pushing the market forward and antagonizing or even damaging the OEMs that are vital to the success of Windows 10.