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Lenovo nixed idea of selling Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet

The PC maker questioned why it would sell a competitor's product.

Lenovo said "no thanks" to Microsoft's offer to sell the Surface Pro 3. Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo rebuffed Microsoft's attempt to get the Chinese PC maker to sell the Surface Pro tablet.

Microsoft, which unveiled the new Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book at its Windows 10 event on October 6, approached Lenovo more than a year ago about selling its Surface Pro 3 tablet, the UK-based Register reported Thursday. Able to transform between a tablet and a laptop via an attachable keyboard, the Surface Pro 3 has been popular among consumers, with the Surface tablet division snagging more than $1 billion in sales in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Lenovo, however, wasn't interested in adding the Surface Pro 3 to its sales lineup.

Microsoft "asked me more than one year ago," Lenovo President Gianfranco Lanci said at the Canalys Channels Forum trade show this month, according to the Register. "And I said no, I don't see any reason why I should sell a product from within brackets, competition."

Lenovo confirmed to CNET that Lanci had made the remarks concerning the Surface Pro 3.

A spokeswoman for Microsoft said the company does not disclose the terms of partnerships and won't offer comment on confidential conversations with partners.

"We have a long standing partnership with Lenovo and we partner with them in many ways, and we're always considering unique collaborations and partnerships that help address customer needs," the spokeswoman said.

The tech world is full of relationships that vary depending on the circumstances. Terms like "frenemy" and "coopetition" come to mind when referring to companies that can be partners in some ways and competitors in others. Most companies can draw the line so they can work with each other in some areas yet compete in others. Microsoft, as the maker of the ubiquitous Windows operating system, Office suite and Internet Explorer browser, relies on hardware partners to preinstall its software on their devices.

Microsoft, however, may have stretched that line when it decided to start making tablets. Introduced in 2012, the Surface lineup was Microsoft's attempt to generate interest in Windows 8. The device ruffled the feathers of some Windows tablet makers who suddenly saw Microsoft as a competitor and no longer just a partner.

Lanci expressed that view when he said that Lenovo sees Microsoft as a "partner on certain things" and a "competitor" in other scenarios, meaning that "we will need to be a little bit careful."

Other companies, though, feel differently. Both HP and Dell have signed up to sell, service and support the Surface Pro in the business market, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported in September. At the Canalys Channels Forum, both companies defended their decision to resell Microsoft's tablet, seeing it as a way to maintain good customer relations and generate business for themselves.

Update, 2:15 p.m. PT: Adds comments from Lenovo and Microsoft.