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Can Microsoft, HP Inc. Jumpstart Hardware as a Service (HaaS)?

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Background CSS: Not a valid MS Swatch – TFS Task Number: 323455

When Microsoft launched a Surface Membership Plan in recent days, some folks wondered if it was the start of a channel-oriented subscription plan or a new spin on Hardware as a Service (HaaS)/Hardware as a Rental (HaaR). Some answers are starting to, um, surface.

First, a little background. A growing list of hardware companies continues to introduce payment plans that potentially shift costs from up-front CapEx costs to recurring OpEx costs. HP Inc., for instance, is working on a Device as a Service (DaaS) strategy (not to be confused with Desktop as a Service/hosted desktops).

In fact, HP Inc. is actually creating a DaaS Global Business Unit, and seeking a head of DaaS Personal Systems to run the group. But while HP Inc. is working to include the channel in its strategy, the current Microsoft Surface Membership Plan is more of a direct sales play. Simply put, the Surface Membership Plan allows customers to pay a monthly fee for the mobile device — while also wrapping in such perks as:

  • Phone and in-store tech support
  • One-on-one personal training
  • In-store discounts on future purchases of hardware and software
  • Microsoft Complete for Business Extended Service Plan with Accidental Damage Protection

The plans range from $32.99 per month (for a Surface 3) to $51.99 per month (Surface Pro 4) and $79.99 per month (Surface Book). Payment plans include 18-, 24- and 30-month options.

Microsoft Surface Membership and Channel Partners?

ChannelE2E checked in with Microsoft to see if Surface Membership Plan has a channel component — potentially allowing partners to wrap the membership plan into larger managed and cloud services offerings. Alas, the current answer is no. “To answer your question, Surface Membership is currently only offered via Microsoft Stores,” a spokesperson told ChannelE2E.

On the one hand, I’m not surprised. Surface started mostly as a direct sales play for Microsoft in 2012. While fine-tuning the products and learning the hardware market, Microsoft gradually expanded the Surface channel strategy before engaging “a few thousand” distributors in 2015.

Fast forward to the present, and Microsoft essentially is experimenting with HaaS — though partners aren’t yet included in the party. Plenty of channel-friendly companies have HaaS experience, though I believe the overall momentum for pay-as-you-go hardware has been a mixed bag.

HaaS: Rebooting as Hardware as a Rental?

Some of the better-known players include GreatAmerica (focused on Hardware as a Rental) and CharTec (a well-known MSP training organization). While HaaS puts the financing risk on the MSP, I believe HaaR shifts the risk onto the financial services provider.

I’ve heard anecdotal momentum statements about HaaS and HaaR. But I’m still waiting for the “big bang” that transforms all of IT — hardware, software, services — into Everything as a Service.

The Microsoft Surface Membership plan is another step in that direction. But so far, Microsoft’s march toward HaaR and/or HaaS doesn’t include channel partners…

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