Microsoft blasted over lack of Surface Pro UK release info

Surface Pro

Microsoft's radio silence over the UK release of the Surface Pro is prompting business users to investigate competing tablets, as anticipation for the device begins to wane.

Despite announcing the US release date and pricing for the device in January, the software giant has remained tight-lipped about when UK business users will be able to get their hands on one.

The tablet will be powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, and is available as a 64GB or 128GB model.

Unlike the Surface RT, whose release coincided with the worldwide rollout of Windows 8 in October, the Surface Pro will be able to run Windows 7 and 8 desktop applications.

IT Pro asked Microsoft this week (on 07 February, when this article was originally published) for clarification around the device's UK release, but were told the company has "nothing to share on Surface Pro storage or UK availability at this time."

Sources in the B2B Microsoft distribution and reseller channel have also told IT Pro of their frustration at being kept in the dark.

A source from a major UK IT distributor said Microsoft began prepping his firm for the release of the Surface Pro at the start of January, but the trail has now gone cold.

"We've received no further marketing materials, pricing or anything, which is strange considering how much they were pushing it to us at the start of the year," our source said.

A Microsoft reseller, who also asked not to be named, said end users are also getting tired of not knowing when the device will drop.

"We're getting a lot of questions about it from customers but we are having to tell them the same thing we were a couple of months ago, and it's getting to a point where customers are getting tired of asking and us telling them we don't know anything," our source said.

"Everyone's in limbo at the minute, with people holding off on other devices until there is definite word on the Surface Pro," they added.

The lack of information being fed through the Microsoft sales channel is perhaps unsurprising, given the company decided to bypass them and sell the Surface RT direct through its online store and selected retailers.

Selling it

The firm's go-to-market strategy with the Surface RT has been blamed for the device's lacklustre sales, with analyst firm IDC reporting last week that just 900,000 of the devices had been sold since launch.

As a result, many industry watchers expected the firm to re-jig its sales strategy and open it up to its B2B channel, especially as the Surface Pro has been billed as a more business-orientated device than the RT.

On the upside, this has reportedly prompted more end users to investigate other Windows 8 tablet hybrids and touchscreen devices, according to our sources, such as the HP Elite Pad 9000 and the Lenovo Twist.

Interest in both these devices has markedly increased since details of the Surface Pro's US pricing was announced, several people IT Pro spoke to over the course of this article remarked.

Salman Chaudhry, mobile computing analyst at market watcher Context, said based on the US pricing the Surface Pro could end up setting back UK buyers anywhere between 800 and 1,100.

"It is going to be an absolute rip-off...and the OEMs have been wise to that, which is why Lenovo and HP have started touting their devices with better average selling prices, better terms and greater transparency about what users will get for their money," he told IT Pro.

"We think the channel, consumers and businesses will shun the Surface Pro, largely because of price point, but also because of lack of engagement on Microsoft's part."

Updated: In a blog post yesterday, Microsoft announced the next tranche of countries where its Surface RT device will be released. They include Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan.

The company also updated UK PC buyers about when they can expect to get their hands on the Surface Pro.

Sadly, no concrete release date or pricing details were divulged, as the software giant simply stated the device wil launch in the UK within the "coming months".

*This story was originally published on 7 February, and updated on 1 March to reflect new information about product's likely release.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.