Microsoft (MSFT) has launched Surface partner programs for authorized tablet resellers and software developers. The moves, announced today, surface one week before Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 (WPC13) starts in Houston. Are the moves perfect? Nope. Do they represent solid progress for Microsoft, resellers and ISVs? Absolutely yes. Here's why.

In a blog post, Cyril Belikoff, director, Surface marketing, said Microsoft was launching:

  • The first phase of our expansion into the business channel that allows customers to purchase Surface and commercial services through authorized resellers.
  • A new ISV program, called AppsForSurface, which provides devices and funding for app design intended to get key enterprise apps on Surface and Window 8.

The VAR Guy is intrigued. Surface is promising. But the tablet has faced limited distribution and few ISVs are out in the market bragging about their Surface and Windows 8 applications. The new reseller and ISV partner programs could help to change that. 

Still, the Microsoft moves aren't perfect. On the reseller front, big partners seem to be the big victors -- at least initially. And on the ISV front, it sounds like the partner program will have a limited initial push.

Among the realities resellers and ISVs must keep in mind:

  • In the United States, CDW, CompuCom Systems, En Pointe Technologies, Insight Enterprises, Softchoice, Softmart, SHI International, PC Connection, PCM and Zones Inc. are the first Surface authorized resellers. That's a short list of big resellers -- leaving thousands of VARs out of the Surface partner program for now. 
  • Microsoft says the initial Surface resellers bring a variety of value-added services to tablet family, such as asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection. 
  • The new ISV program, called AppsForSurface, provides devices and funding for enterprise app design on Surface and Windows 8. That sounds promising but Microsoft says it has "limited slots for this program." Early adopters include Citrix, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Airstrip.

The VAR Guy is pleased to see Microsoft push Surface beyond retail partners. But thousands of partners still don't qualify as Surface Authorized Resellers. Overall, the Surface partner push remains a work in progress... But there's definitely progress.