Microsoft is coming off their biggest year ever and just had the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in mid-July to kick-off a new fiscal year. The message was primarily 3 fold: 1) New Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), 2) All in for cloud computing, and 3) Wave of new products and innovations continue.
Although the MPN is a welcome start to revamping the previous Partner program, much of it is not fully baked. There are now Gold, Silver, and two versions of Action Pack Partners (individual or small developer and platform partners). The tiers seem to align to large, medium, and small partners. However, Gold requires just $1,500 more per year with the requirement of 2 additional certified people, a couple of programmatic tests, and a new sales commitment. Silver basically has the same requirements as a previous Certified Partner with a couple extra programmatic tests. Using history as an example, there will be a few thousand Gold Partners to start with every 18 months the number doubling to saturation. Unlike the previous program, partners and customers are not likely to put much stock in the new levels. There are slim margins to selling Microsoft software and virtually every player in the industry is a partner, including 10%-20% of customers.
While the MPN may largely be status quo, “We’re all in” concerning cloud computing definitely is not. Cloud computing is about massively taking the cost out of computing and Microsoft gets it with the world’s most mature and still evolving online suite of products: Exchange, SharePoint, CRM, Office Communications, LiveMeeting, and Azure. For a small percentage of on-premise solutions, customers escape hardware, licensing, maintenance, upgrades/migrations, backup, and disaster recovery. For partners, the margins are still slim and MPN may not have to worry about differentiation as true business consulting will be the sweet spot and the masses of infrastructure individuals and partners will be eliminated. For competitors like Google and Apple, the bell has sounded and it’s time to stop resting on the success of a couple of fad hardware devices and develop a unified strategy. With personal cloud, Microsoft brings unprecedented ease to search, buy, and share in a digital world.
Finally, the wave of new products continues this year at Launch Central. As we see discontinued products like XP and 2000 fade into history, x64 will be the standard for increased speed/capacity and productivity with all mediums as the driving focus.