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Big channel questions loom in 2008

What will be the defining partner issues of the coming year? Here’s a completely unscientific take on what solution providers of all stripes should watch for.

One: Will Dell’s new-found (or born again)  channel religion take? Can EqualLogic’s Don Bulens endow what partners see as Darth Vader with his good partner karma?

Two: Will VMware forestall the coming-from-everywhere virtualization onslaught? Current players like Citrix/Xensource are gunning for it as are VM newbies Oracle and Microsoft. If Microsoft stumbles with its Windows 2008/Hyper-V combo, VMware’s head start may prevail and its lock on enterprises continue. Should Hyper-V soar, Microsoft could be the go-to virtualization player at least in smaller companies and then it must wrestle with vexing licensing issues. How to adjust pricing when customers will have to buy fewer copies of the OS?

Three:  Will single-core, single-processor computers go the way of the buggy whip and the Edsel? Could be.

Four: Can/will Google transform itself into a power within the firewall? It’s using its appliance and apps as Trojan horses but will IT really tolerate this consumer-led push? Can it afford not to?

Five: Conversely, can Microsoft transform itself into a software-as-a-service power? Microsoft, unlike Google, has to defend its on-premise turf. Will it figure out how to bring its partners along for the ride? Or throw them under the bus?

Six: Can Hewlett Packard beat back Dell’s new partner efforts to build on its hardware dominance? Will HP partners defect?

Seven: Can Microsoft regroup from its  under delivered Vista? Will SP 1 re-invigorate the market, spur “killer app” development? Or will Redmond simply declare victory and start hyping the next release?

Eight: Will computer retail survive/prosper? Was  CompUSA’s demise a sign of things to come in retail consolidation or just a specific case of mismanagement and missed opportunities?

Nine: Will the iPhone parlay its blockbusting consumer popularity into the enterprise? Will it “work well with others” as in existing  corporate e-mail and other systems? Or will the corporate classes cling to their Blackberries?

Ten: Will Microsoft sort out its self-hosted ERP puzzle? The company wants to offer hosted options for its apps but so far has been publicly mum on what could be called “ERP Live.” Maybe it can’t figure out which of its four (count ’em, four!) ERP lines should be the underlying code base?

Bonus item: Who will win the unified communications marathon? Networking powerhouse Cisco or application dominator Microsoft? Or could there be a dark horse?

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area reporter, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net

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