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Big Easy Offer has $10 million for Microsoft partner subsidies

The Big Easy Offer, a $10 million subsidy promotion for Microsoft partners, begins this week -- but some solution providers still don't know about it.

Microsoft partners targeting small and medium-sized businesses can get a piece of up to $10 million in subsidies through the company's new Big Easy Offer.

Microsoft announced the Big Easy Offer earlier this month and has been promoting it through its Web sites, newsletters, partner emails, partner account briefings, large account resellers (LARs) and distributors. Still, several Microsoft partners told this week that they hadn't heard of the promotion at all or are only slightly familiar with how the partner subsidies will work.

"We're doing as much as we can to get the word out about this offer," said Chris Large, Microsoft's group manager for U.S. sales programs.

Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, said he knows of the Big Easy Offer but not its specifics. As his company, a Microsoft partner in Fairfax, Va., prepares for the launches of Windows Server 2008 next month and the Open Value Subscription Program in March, the Big Easy Offer is not a top priority, he said.

"There is so much to focus on," he added. "If it fits with the larger marketing push for the year, we'll go for it."

Here's how the offer works: When a customer makes a qualifying purchase through a Microsoft partner, the partner registers the purchase online. Microsoft then issues a partner subsidy -- in the form of a check to the customer, payable to the partner of its choice, for additional products and services. (The amount of the check depends on the cost of the original purchase.)

Those subsidies will help drive additional business for Microsoft partners and strengthen their relationships with their customers, Large said.

The Big Easy Offer covers the following Microsoft products: Office, Exchange Server, Forefront Security for Exchange Server, System Center Essentials, Project, Visio, Office SharePoint Server, Forefront Security for SharePoint, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2006, CRM, Office Communications Server, Systems Center Configuration Manager, Core CAL Suite, Windows Server, Small Business Server and SQL Server.

Brian Hatch, IT outsourcing practice leader for CTS, Inc., said he is only "a little bit" familiar with the Big Easy Offer but is very interested in participating. Consolidating several different offers into one larger promotion will simplify the sales process for CTS, a Microsoft partner in Birmingham, Ala., he said.

"It's been a little bit hard to manage, because there (have) been so many promotions," he added. "It will make it easier for the customer to see what the benefits are, and it should help sell more products."

Hatch said he sees a great opportunity to sell Office 2007 through the Big Easy Offer because a lot of CTS customers run older versions of Office and only buy Office 2007 to run on new computers.

Now, when customers make those initial purchases, they can use their partner subsidy checks from Microsoft to start upgrading their older versions, Hatch said. They can also move from original equipment manufacturer (OEM) software licenses to Open Value licenses, which are transferable and come with Software Assurance.

"Essentially, they're buying the rights to all the upgrades, and it [provides incentive] to do that," Hatch said.

Microsoft hopes that customers will spend even more on additional products and services than just the amount of the subsidy. The company expects that deals through the Big Easy Offer will be five to eight times the size of the original purchase, Large said.

Microsoft partners do not need to register for the Big Easy Offer in advance, but "we are strongly recommending that partners attend trainings," Large said. "There is tremendous value that comes with this."

Training information is available on the Big Easy Offer Web site.

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