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Microsoft partner conference checklist

This year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference will be in Houston. In July. One word: Ugh.

And, interestingly, insiders say preliminary numbers show that more than half (60%) of attendees will be from outside the U.S. That’s a first, to my knowledge and is at least partially attributable to the incredible shrinking dollar.

Note to vendors: If you’re gonna drag people into triple-digit heat and humidity, make it cheap.

As for news: Look for Microsoft to talk up repeatable solutions in SMB markets. And don’t forget SaaS and the mega-billion dollar question of how partners fit into Microsoft’s software plus services game plan. That’ll be a big theme. 

 In products: SQL Server 2008 has been promised by August and Hyper-V is also reportedly well on its way for a summer release so there’s a chance WWPC will be the venue for their official releases.

In the past year, Microsoft has beaten the drum loud and long about its virtualization strategy, seeing it as a growth opportunity and also as a huge competitive threat given VMware’s dominance. The tone of partner briefings in the past year is one of “Kill VMware” said one attendee.

As for all the Gates-to-Ballmer transition talk eating up the interwebs this week, most partners are blasé. Solution providers are nothing if not pragmatic.

“Look, this has been so pre-announced it’s not a big deal. We just want stuff to sell and stuff that will sell,” said one Microsoft Gold partner. (The slow-motion transition was announced in June, 2006.)

Ballmer will keynote at WWPC, as will regular speakers channel chief Allison Watson, enterprise go-to guy Simon Witts, COO Kevin Turner and much of the rest of the brain trust. Extra bonus, Nobel Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, of micro-credit fame.

I  thought Jeff Raikes might show up for his big goodbye but that’s apparently not the case. Microsoft sources say there are no public events on Raikes’ schedule. He’s officially leaves in September to take on his new post at the Gates Foundation. Stephen Elop, the new Microsoft Division guy, will keynote, however.

Barbara Darrow can be reached at

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