​The annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference kicked off this morning with a warm up MPN Live TV broadcast from the Air Canada Centre studio. Kat Tillman, the community strategist for Microsoft Partner Network chose to read out my tweet from early this morning where I encouraged people to join me in a game of ‘Ballmer Buzzword Bingo’.

“#wpc12 ballmer buzzword bingo – my words are ‘thank you’, windows, surface, future, ‘end of an era’, together, ecosystem, imagine – yours?”. I was delighted to see my name on the big screen! It happened so fast I didn’t get a picture.
The show began with a favourite of mine–a mini performance by Cirque du Soleil. What better way to showcase Canada than Montreal’s finest export! It was an exemplification of teamwork and dedication.
As talented as they are, the Cirque performers were not the reason I attended the keynote. I wanted to hear from the ringmaster. Jon Roskill started things off, highlighting that there are 16,000 attendees from 156 countries. Additional stats included the 4,391 new attendees and 63 people who’ve been to 10 or more. (I have been to six-plus previous WPC and their predecessor ‘Fusion’ events so to have been to 10 is some achievement.)
Steve Ballmer took the stage. I was worried that he would ask me to stand up and explain my ‘Ballmer Buzzword Bingo’ tweet – fortunately he didn’t.
I’m going to focus on the messages I heard, and how I interpret them. I don’t work for Microsoft, and I am fiercely independent, so I may well be interpreting them wrongly, so you should make your own mind up and not just act on my opinion!
As before, Microsoft seem to manage Ballmer’s keynotes by having him adopt a conversational style with a trusted anchorperson. This works well, I suppose, for controlling the message, but for me it’s not as exciting as seeing the CEO in full, unadulterated flow. People on Twitter seemed to agree with me – the fireside chat style isn’t as loose and exciting. He didn’t take questions. The arena is just too big now I guess. He seemed in good form. And very excited about Windows 8.
There was a lot more to digest, but you had to listen carefully to the conversation. I had thought it might be a major shift to tablet, eschewing the desktop, but it’s not so. Enterprise customers and families need a variety of different form factors provided by all the different OEMs. Windows 8 was showcased on many different types of computer.
The first day of WPC12 was all about partner readiness and the opportunity with Windows 8, it seems. Ballmer, and Jon Roskill before him, both went to great lengths to associate the re-imagination of Windows in Windows 8 with the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981 and the launch of Windows 95. I had re-imagine in my buzzword list, but I modified it to imagine before tweeting this morning, I think I got most of them.

  • Windows 8 RTM first week of August, with general availability in October in 109 languages. This was well-received by partners. I can’t help thinking that it would be better to have Windows 8 RTM at WPC, not a few weeks after. It would have brought the roof down to hear "and you can pick it up on your way out."
  • Direct partner to end customer billing for Office 365 Open. This went down really well with the partner crowd, who have always had issues with direct to Microsoft billing with Online Services.

  • Office 15 simultaneous ship of everything – not for WPC12, but a great partner opportunity which will be talked about later in the summer. Ballmer noted that he loves it and uses it every day but there’s no further information planned for WPC12, it seems.
  • US$14.99 upgrade price to Windows 8 for Win 7 PC bought today
  • Windows Store goes live on the RTM day. Apps will be available.
  • Windows RT on an ARM tablet has a high degree of compatibility with Windows 8. Fascinating positioning which will become clearer as devices ship, no doubt.

  • Surface is not the central device for Windows 8. Ballmer called it one of the Preeminent Windows 8 devices which he noted had got an amazing reaction, partially due to the project’s secrecy. In stating that it was just one of the devices among a showcase from all the OEMs, Ballmer was, I think, making it clear that OEMs will be key to device diversity and the Surface is meant to be a device that exemplifies Windows 8 and counters other competitors

  • Yammer – A team who knows how to build cloud collaboration from day one. Quite an interesting off-hand statement given the investment in SharePoint Online.

  • Windows RT – “Customers are telling us that these are the type of tablets that they want" I translate that as “customers want something from Microsoft that is better than an iPad”. So it better be better.

  • Perceptive Pixel acquisition was showcased at WPC12. Lots of work to do to make it more accessible – at a price point affordable in schools for example. The non-linear storyboard looked like a great new feature compared to the slide sorter in PowerPoint.

  • "This year is the most important year" Ballmer concluded at the end of the keynote.  Build, grow, impress customers – join Microsoft reinvented for the new era
How it plays outside in the real world?
My daughter, Katrina, is 16 and doing some work experience, so I asked her to watch the keynote and write up what she felt. Here’s what she says:
“I’m going to tell you about Windows 8 because that was the main thing I understood and liked. I really liked the start screen with the tiles on the Windows 8 desktop, which looked like the Windows Phone because I thought that it looked sleek and the touch screen was awesome.
Being able to use the paintbrush and the picture passwords were really interesting–and let’s be honest–I would love to use a paintbrush on my computer screen. 😉
Also Windows To Go looked really useful for the workplace.
It seems like Microsoft are really trying to finally catch up with other software companies and have actually managed to create something new which hasn’t been used by any of the others, mainly the touch screen computers and the tablets connecting to keyboards. :)”
Seems to play well to Katrina, doesn’t it? I wonder what we will hear tomorrow.
– Angus​