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Microsoft, 'the F word' and top ten questions for WPC

By Pat Ouellette and Barbara Darrow, ITChannel Staff

VARs heading into the  Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference next week have a lot of questions for the software giant. They want clarification of its cloud message and they need to hear just exactly why it is they should keep signing on to the Microsoft Partner Network.  But those are just a couple of the questions. Here’s an unscientific sampling of what they want to hear about at WPC 2011 in Los Angeles.

1: Will Microsoft use the “F word?”
Microsoft explored, then buried, the idea of creating  “franchise” partners–at least in the Microsoft Dynamics business solutions world. But some expect the idea to resurface at WPC, albeit under a different name. Turns out the “F word” has a lot of knotty tax repercussions attached that wouldn’t help anyone. The idea, though, is to figure out a way that a raft of small but skillful Microsoft Dynamics VARs could actually profit selling, implementing and supporting Microsoft Dynamics-based solutions.

2: Can Microsoft Skype P2P threaten Google Voice?
How viable will Skype beyond the consumer market? Larry Piland, president of Datel Systems, Inc., a San Diego, Calif.-based solution provider, wants to see Microsoft’s plans for its new acquisition.

“I’m curious how Microsoft plans to take on Google Voice. How will the Skype acquisition and its XBOX integration affect non-retail sales (which are only 2% of its business)?,” he said. “Cisco wanted to be everything to everyone (i.e. Flip camera) and it hasn’t been able to do that — Microsoft won’t be able to either.”

This is especially pertinent because some with an open-source bent worry that Microsoft will “ruin” Skype.

3: What’s with the Office 365 go-to-market?
Microsoft itself and a (very) select group of hosting, ISP and SaaS partners will be able to bill for But what about everyone else?

“Will they change the Office 365 billing model? We’ve been asking this for a few years but we’ll keep asking,” said Carl Mazzanti, CEO of eMazzanti Technologies

It’s important for most VARs to be able to bill for the services they resell. That has not been the case with BPOS nor will it apparently be so for Office 365 unless they are one of the chosen few “syndication” partners.

4: Does Microsoft’s overall cloud strategy make sense for partners?
Since Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer vowed that Microsoft will be “all in” the cloud, the company has made progress although there are still gaps and confusion about how partners can or will participate.

Rand Morimoto, CEO of Convergent Computing didn’t think there was much consistency or cohesion in the cloud message last year, but things have improved since.

“What we’ve [seen] over the past three to six months really has been solidified, new products are coming out (i.e. Office 365, System Center 2012, Exchange 2010 SP2, etc…) that ‘cloud’ into reality for Microsoft,” he said. Morimoto hopes WPC will be a platform to show that all the product groups to have worked together on a good overall message, strategy, and clarity where partners fit in.

Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies wants to go to market with Microsoft on the cloud, but is wondering when it will bring the goods.

How long can partners wait for Microsoft to catch up to the rest of the market? They’ve been supporting direct cloud sales, but Microsoft’s been missing the boat with the channel,” Sobel said.

Sobel also brought up an interesting point: Microsoft has taken its fair share of criticism for years about its complicated licensing for products across the board, but after two years it has ONE cloud billing model. Something to think about heading into the WPC.

5: Can partners use Azure? (Addendum to #4)
Partners are still withholding judgement on Microsoft’s Platform as a Service (PaaS).
“I want to learn more about Azure because I’m still vague on it. I’ve talked to people who have high hopes for it but depending on what we hear at WPC, we may revisit offering it,” Mazzanti said.

Morimoto is intrigued by Azure, but doesn’t see taking off just yet.

“We’re doing some Azure right now, but the reality is organizations still have a HUGE investment in internal IT, so 95%+ of our clients are still doing IT the way they’ve been doing it over the past two decades,” he said via email. “The cloud is of interest because of all the buzz, but other than some trials and dabbling, until the cloud really “works” and the model truly is just as good as internal IT and cheaper, it’s more of a novelty right now than IT reality.”

6: What the heck is going on with the Dodgers?

Okay,it’s not a Microsoft question but seeing as how we’ll be in LA for the big show, it sure would be nice to ck out Chavez Ravine and get a Dodger dog. But will the cash-strapped Dodgers be able to field a team? With Frank McCourt barely being able to pay what he owes former stars Juan Pierre and Manny Ramirez, let’s hope there will be Dodger baseball before the All-Star break on July 11. One thing’s for sure: Tickets will be cheap.

7: Is the Microsoft Partner Network worth joining?

Microsoft VARs still wonder whether attaining the top-tier Microsoft “Gold” designation worth the hassle. While some deadlines were extended to October, many current Golds still not sure that there’s enough money to be made selling, supporting, servicing Microsoft software to justify the resource drain of getting certified.

8: How will Microsoft ERP hosting partners deal with Microsoft-hosted ERP?

Microsoft ERP hosting partners now know that Microsoft-hosted ERP will compete with them and want to know if/how the company will help them preserve (knock wood!) build their businesses going forward.

9: How ready IS Microsoft-hosted ERP?
Microsoft was hazy on the timeline for the aforementioned cloud ERP will be ready but partners who’ve seen the code say it won’t be any time soon. There’s concern that critical pieces of the overall solution—report writer etc.—are not yet cloud enabled at all. Some partners said the decision to move three out of four existing code bases to the Microsoft cloud makes sense given all the vertical capabilities built atop them and the industry-specific expertise they bring to bear. Others said this would be the perfect time for Microsoft to cut bait and move to one, thoroughly modern ERP code base. It would almost be like the promised-then-skuttled “Project Green!”

10: Will Windows 8 hype hurt Windows 7?

Despite good reviews and what Microsfot describes as record sales, there’s a lot of Windows XP still deployed two years after Windows 7 release. The fact that Microsoft has shown off Windows 8 may just keep XP shops right where they are until they assess their next step.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at

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