Microsoft is selling Surface tablets direct to business customers

Credit: IDGNS Boston

Microsoft has opened up a web site for volume licensing customers to bulk order its Surface tablets.

The web site, first reported by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, is only visible to Microsoft customers with volume license agreements, partners, and employees. It allows them to purchase Surface tablets as well as accessories and extended support plans. Customers must enter a purchase order number to be able to participate.

Microsoft launched Surface as a consumer product, with a massive TV advertising campaign and retail rollout. But the product hasn't sold very well: Bloomberg recently reported that only 1.5 million Surfaces had been purchased. Of those, about 1.1 million were the Surface RT -- the first version of the tablet, which went on sale in October, and which runs Windows RT, a limited-function version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM processors and does not run older Windows programs. Surface Pro, which runs on Intel-based chips and runs full Windows 8, has sold a bit better, moving about 400,000 copies in a month.

By way of comparison, Apple claims to have sold 22.9 million iPads during the last quarter of 2012.

By opening Surface sales to direct company purchases, Microsoft could capitalize on widespread employee demand for a tablet that runs Microsoft Office, as well as the presumed IT demand for tablets that can be managed and secured using existing Windows-based technologies and that are easier to repair than the iPad.  

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