I have been coming to WPC since before it was called WPC, and have been a top ten twitterer here two years running. The Microsoft Partner Network asked me to write a blog for community insight from a partner-to-partner point of view immediately after the keynotes, so I decided to take a leaf out of Bing’s book and try to write something you can use to ‘decide and take action’.
Vision Keynote—Community Insight
I watched the Vision keynote online from the UK this year for the first time and was glued to it. Lots comes out of WPC about where Microsoft is headed, and it is vital that you as a Microsoft partner understand the announcements, make sense of them for your own business and geography, and create an action plan for activity during the rest of the conference. Afterwards in your business you can reflect on this week’s activity to maximize your opportunity.
Let’s go through the things I heard that are front and center in executives’ minds today:
Last year Steve Ballmer said ‘we’re all in’, and he admitted he found that a scary message to deliver in Washington. ‘Partners did not like the disruption’ he said, and ‘the cloud was disruptive to their business’.
But to be 100% all in does not mean that partner business today is 100% transitioned to the cloud. Instead, he commented, the focus should be upon making the transition WITH Microsoft, as Microsoft itself makes the transition. A key takeaway here for all WPC attendees is that Microsoft is in the middle of this transition too and they need partners to embrace it and help them. Go to the cloud sessions and the booths in the trade show to make sure you can make sense of the cloud according to Microsoft. Microsoft private cloud business is still growing through Windows Server and Hyper-V, and the public cloud through Azure, Bing, and Office 365 is a massive growing opportunity. What do these technologies mean for you? What is your plan to find out today? How can you help your business and Microsoft transition to the cloud?
Windows Phone 7 is still very small in terms of market share, but Ballmer noted ‘it’s been a heck of a year’. The platform launched and gained friends in the carriers, and device manufacturers. Clearly the keynote acknowledged that there was much more to do, but the twitter feed was very positive about Windows Phone. Nokia have bet their company on the technologies and Ballmer noted they are pushing Microsoft very hard to deliver for them, and therefore to all the partners.
Ballmer called Bing the most emblematic cloud application for productivity, and then noted that it was probably the product that most partners spent the least amount of time with. Over time it would open up to be more of a platform. ‘Bing as a platform’ is a key phrase. Steve Ballmer likes platforms because they indicate a breadth of vision and capability and a place where lots of partners can flourish providing technology products and services. This is an indication to me that Bing is something partners should not overlook. Indeed, it is probably the most important technology to get to grips with today as a Microsoft partner exiting the Vision Keynote.
Bing share is up year on year, and innovation here at Microsoft is relentless. ‘Decide and Take Action’ replacing ‘Search’ might just seem like technical detail but it is quite profound and it tries to marginalize the competition as old fashioned search. Bing is ‘not search’ Ballmer said it is looking at ‘what do people want to do when they search’. It is moving from indexing HTML to looking at the social graph in a geographic location. The demonstrations of ‘Decide and Take Action’ helping to book tickets, determine the right semantic for the word ‘mango’ in the context of a social graph, and getting a better deal on a chosen offer or parking place were all signposts that this technology is open to partners already and inherently local, social, and geographically based. OpenTable and DealMap were referenced in the demo. They may not be traditional Microsoft partners but they are clearly Bing partners and all partners need to understand what that means over the next twelve months, as I have a feeling Bing will be center stage next year at WPC.
I’m not a Dynamics partner but I noted a 5% referral deal, and will be checking that out! You should too!
The acquisition is "subject to approval", but we heard a really key message: Skype strengthens Lync. It does this by allowing enterprises to have all the control they like over communications and collaboration and yet be able to connect enterprises to consumers, businesses, and trade partners worldwide. Ballmer says this drives the consumerization of IT, which is the ability of the user to choose their infrastructure, a phenomena we are seeing in the UK in small and medium and some bigger businesses but not yet in the public sector or large enterprises. Perhaps it is the other way around. The consumerization of IT drove the acquisition of Skype. However you look at it, this is a key initiative which allows partners to pursue Lync-related business with vigor using Skype as a strength, not a weakness.
Windows 7 and 8
Windows 7 is 27% of the Internet according to Tami Reller, and she should know, through leading that product at Microsoft. It is growing at three times the pace of Windows XP. People like brand new PCs and the productivity improvements are inherently measurable. Key features like pinning, taskbar preview, jump lists, snap, bit locker, and remote desktop all making measurable return on investment (ROI) analysis possible to close deals through partners. Tami pointed out four key reasons to go Windows 7 for customers. Firstly, this ROI in productivity and power reduction; secondly, XP End of life in 1000 days from today. This is a critical thing that needs to be communicated now in some sectors like the public sector especially in the UK otherwise we will have another IE6 eradication program! Thirdly, the cloud, of course, made easier by Windows 7, and fourthly Windows 8. The route to Windows 8 is through Windows 7. Microsoft clearly need partners to adopt Windows 7 and get it rolled out in customers’ way before Windows 8 is available. The Windows 8 demos were exciting but very new. Partners should I believe, focus on Windows 7 deployment activities for this next financial year, and the Windows 7 sessions and booths would be good places to go find out more about how to make money from these deployments – only 50% of which are partner-led at the moment which is an opportunity for everyone. Window 7 is under more competition than ever before. Microsoft needs partners to lead with it.