HOUSTON -- The sheer number of attendees alone -- 14,000 plus -- at Day 1 of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 here created a momentum all its own. That was even before the company kicked off the four-day event with a vision keynote that laid out its product strategy for the upcoming year, one that focuses on four cornerstones: big data, social, cloud and mobility.
Noting that a year ago, in the company’s annual report, Microsoft talked about transforming from a software company to a devices and services company, CEO Steve Ballmer said that what that means today is that software innovation gets packaged and presented through a set of devices that include the software and through a set of cloud services that deliver that software.
“Cloud is the future of innovation,” he said.
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With that, Microsoft urged partners to become more cloud-oriented and reap worldwide business spending on cloud, which will reach $98 billion by 2016, according to a new IDC study. Microsoft executives also highlighted study findings that partners selling cloud-based solutions benefit from higher gross profit, at 1.6x percent; 2.4x new customers; 1.3x more revenue per employee; and 2.4x faster overall business growth.
Satya Nadella, president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, took the stage at Microsoft WPC 2013 to announce a number of new programs and services for partners:
- Cloud OS Accelerate: Microsoft, with key partners Cisco, Dell, Hitachi Data Systems, HP and NetApp, will invest more than $100 million to accelerate the delivery of new private and hybrid cloud solutions to customers.
- Effective Oct. 1, Microsoft will offer partners a 30% discount on Windows Intune.
Other new enterprise cloud announcements:
- Power BI for Office 365, a new self-service business intelligence solution.
- New capabilities for Windows Azure Active Directory that enable single-sign-on for users at no cost.
- A premium offer for Windows Azure SQL Database that delivers reserved capacity, upping the ante on the types of services and products that partners can offer to customers. A limited preview will be available in a few weeks, according to Microsoft.
Tami Reller, Windows chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Microsoft, talked about “One complete Windows experience across all devices from the start.”
Betting that user experience and design is going to be an important differentiator for Microsoft and a differentiator for the experiences that partners build for customers, Reller announced the launch, in January 2014, of the User Experience Design Competency – a way for partners to train designers and get the recognition for expertise with the Microsoft design language and user experience for building apps.
Reller then turned her focus on the devices and made a couple of announcements:
- The availability of the Windows 8.1 release to market (RTM) version for OEM partners in late August.
- The Commercial Touchwins Featured Device Incentive program, which offers incentives for the commercial channel on featured Windows devices worldwide. U.S. partners can find more details on the U.S. partner rewards site.
Windows 8.1 enhancements took center stage in the company’s strategy. Reller noted that since the launch of Windows 8 there have been 900 continuous improvements to the operating system. In fact, Reller told Microsoft WPC 2013 attendees that there’s never been a better time to migrate customers to Windows 8 from Windows XP. The Touchwins program is designed to support partners that migrate customers to Windows 8.
The takeaway for partners was the power of Windows 8.1, the Microsoft ecosystem of devices and cloud enterprise services that offer a collective enterprise opportunity for increased revenue, customers and business growth.
Other Day 1 announcements include:
- Hosted Microsoft Dynamics GP and NAV are now available on Windows Azure.
- Expansion of the Microsoft Open program with new Office 365 SKUs to include ProPlus, Exchange Online, Enterprise, Government and Academic.
Attending her eighth Worldwide Partner Conference, Peggy Martinus, vice president of sales and marketing at Magenium Solutions, a Microsoft Partner and Chicago-based IT solutions provider, said that the conference gives her the opportunity for face-to-face meetings with Microsoft executives, to catch up with vendor announcements and to attend select sessions.
Her take on the WPC 2013 keynote: Microsoft is making strides in getting Windows on more devices, and Windows is getting better with Version 8.1.
As for customers getting onboard with Windows 8.1, Martinus said, “Some will, and some won’t because it’s an expensive proposition for many customers even though it will make them more productive.”
Part of the problem with businesses investing in new technology, she noted, is that too many companies have the CIO report to the CFO rather than the CEO. “Technology is strategic and for the CEO it’s about business and being more competitive. For the CFO it’s about numbers.”
Magenium has seen the shift of businesses moving to Office 365 and Martinus is bullish on the future for Office 365. “It’s fully functional and makes sense for many of our midmarket customers,” she said.
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