The stage is getting set. Microsoft-creator of Windows-through a series of partner programs is strengthening its attempt to be the king of communications, just as it is the king of computing. The Windows Partner Conference was attended by 15,000 Microsoft's solution providers from across the world, including those who build business and consumer applications for mobile users. At the conference, president of Microsoft's Windows phone division, Andy Lees said that Microsoft partners will get exclusive discounts on Windows phone devices and accompanying rate plans from mobile operators. In fact, going much beyond that, Andy Lees also listed down new ways for Windows phone partners to get mobility competency accreditation and a new Microsoft partner network application for its competency partners.
The new benefits and opportunities for members of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) include an exclusive discount program that makes it easier for MPN members worldwide to obtain and experience Windows phone. The new discount program that begins immediately is available to all MPN members with at least one Microsoft competency. Also announced at the conference was a new MPN application for all mobility competency partners that will give them easy access to exclusive technical and sales content for Windows phone while on the go. To give these partners a special identity, a special MPN logo was also unveiled. Code-named 'Mango', the motive behind the next version of Windows phone is to reach out to more than 750 mn Microsoft Office users, 150 mn exchange users, and 100 mn licensed SharePoint users. Mango, likely to hit markets by the end of this year, will be the only phone to offer Microsoft Office mobile and Outlook mobile built-in. This capability can significantly enhance productivity by allowing businesses to extend their IT infrastructure and utilize Microsoft cloud based services such as Office 365 while increasing opportunities for partners around the globe, believes Andy Lees.
This allows Microsoft to bring a familiar platform and tools together that will help partners scale quickly and reach new customers. “This represents a huge opportunity for partners to thrive and grow their business in the rapidly expanding Windows phone ecosystem,” Andy Lees added. With this perspective in mind, the call to partners to join and benefit from the expanding Windows phone ecosystem becomes compelling. Ever since Windows Phone 7 was launched in October last year, Microsoft has some key players-Nokia, ZTE, Acer, and Fujitsu on its side. Plus they have now got over 42,000 developers, who have downloaded over 1.5 mn toolkits and launched more than 22,000 applications and games, which is about 100 titles every day. Paul Bryan, senior director, product management, Microsoft said, “Our huge base of partners in the Microsoft Partner Network that are already very familiar with Microsoft technologies such as Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and now Office 365 can deliver great customer experiences by making these things available on the go with Windows Phone.” By 2012, IDC predicts, Windows phone has the potential to generate annual software and service revenue of $296 per Windows phone device for Microsoft partners.
Partners Riding over Cloud Wave
Admitted Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft in front of about 15,000 solution partners who had assembled to hear what the world's biggest software company had to offer, as the cloud wave, seen with a lot of suspicion as a disruptive business model, gathers momentum. Partners did have and still have a feeling of great discomfort with cloud and the best thing is to address it and not brush it under the carpet. I am not holding anybody's brief, but I am happy to see that industry leaders are taking the partner route to the cloud and they better do. It is the solution providers who have traditionally owned the customer, have the most interesting and unique set of customer insights, care for them with time and energy, and translate these technologies into the solutions that really change people's lives.
The partner route to cloud is going to be an uphill task though and will take a lot of doing. The various types of partners such as solution providers, developers, SIs, VARs, and distributors will have their specific needs to successfully go to market. And investments can be staggering. Steve Ballmer said they plan to pump in about $4.1 bn as incentives for partners to move to cloud. Beyond that, what is critical is partner awareness. Some very interesting insights, even though from Microsoft, can be quite encouraging. For instance, 74% of their cloud CRM deals is happening through partners. Those cloud partners who have signed in are getting a good deal-12% of the deal revenue in the first year and 6% from the second year onward. The only on-site guys are being encouraged to start a cloud division, without abandoning on-site. There is a 30 day free trial period for customers during which partners can help them understand and try out the advantages. And for the cloud partners, there is 28% more revenue per employee. In India, I know that the partner awareness level of the advantages of the cloud is still very low. The smart thing that Microsoft is doing is to exhort its partners to first adopt the cloud, which effectively means that there are already 40,000 plus Microsoft cloud customers inevitably, and another 600,000 could log in. 'Use the cloud to sell the cloud' is the slogan. Just over 40,000 partners in an ecosystem of over 640,000, means that there is still a long way to go but it does show that the first step is being taken, across the world and that is not too bad. Whoever said that partners are going to be sidelined with this new technology, can take it easy.
The author was hosted
by Microsoft in Los Angeles