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By | Paul Kunert 20th May 2013 14:15

Microsoft: We need a pro to flog our Surface slabs in UK

New bod to tackle Apple, Samsung, twitchy channel partners, skint consumers...

Microsoft UK is seeking a captain to steer the good ship Surface. The candidate will need a sturdy pair of sea legs to navigate potentially choppy waters and prevent it from running aground.

Ten-year Microsoft veteran and senior Windows consumer marketing man Rob Epstein is currently moonlighting as Microsoft's lead on the UK Surface programme. But he tells us: "We will appoint someone who will concentrate on the role full time."

And Microsoft certainly needs someone to do that: it will require buckets of blood and sweat to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung.

The role may also involve tears but these will come mainly from channel partners which have yet to be told whether the Surface Pro will be solely sold direct, or will be eventually available through distribution.

The Surface RT was sold direct from its launch date in October 2012, although later it was made available through selected retailers - John Lewis and Harrods - in the UK. This was widely seen by the channel as one of the contributing factors towards poor sales of the ARM-powered slab.

The Surface Pro lands in Blighty on 23 May with the 64BG and 128GB models priced at £719 and £799, and they can bought only on www.microsoftstore.co.uk.

Channel partners are still crying out for the full-blown Windows 8 hybrid, a point not lost on Epstein who started a career in tech at disties Datrontech and Computer 2000.

The involvement of the channel is still "being investigated", he said, but added there was "nothing to announce" at this stage.

"A lot of people in the reseller, retail and distributor channel want [Surface] products," said Epstein.

Canalys beancounter Tim Coulling told us last week that despite the relatively hefty price, the only obstacle in front of Surface Pro is the limited sales channel.

"If [Microsoft is] selling this only through its stores, shipments will be low," he said.

In Q4, 722,000 Surface slabs were sold worldwide reckons Canalys, and IDC estimates that some 900,000 RT and Pro machines were shipped in Q1, giving Microsoft a 1.8 per cent market share. ®

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