Microsoft gave partners a lot to chew on last week during its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). Here’s a recap of the major themes of the show through 10 notable quotes by Microsoft executives that highlight implications and opportunities that will reverberate through the channel for Microsoft’s fiscal 2016.
John Case, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Office
It would be impossible to overstate what a big deal Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) is going to be over the next year. Although it got a soft launch a year ago, CSP had its real debutante’s ball at the Orlando WPC last week. The amount of support in the vendor community is impressive, with companies like Odin, AppDirect, Tech Data and Ingram Micro making serious pushes to enable broad partner participation in CSP. Many of the Office 365 syndication partners are all-in already, as well.
For many Microsoft solution providers, CSP is the cloud program they’ve been asking Microsoft to provide since about 2009. The partner can control the customer billing, unlike the Advisor model, and the partner pays for the seats on a monthly basis just like the customer, unlike with Open.
Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President
The Snowden revelations have put major U.S.-based technology companies on their heels with consumers, business customers and governments, especially outside the United States. In his first WPC stage appearance, Smith, Microsoft’s top lawyer, tackled the issues involved in a balanced speech that was well-received by the partner audience, which included a large contingent of non-U.S. partners. Going through specific examples that illustrate the tensions in Microsoft’s responsibilities to governments, businesses and consumers, Smith laid out principles and commitments for Microsoft going forward. He also provided details about three Microsoft lawsuits against the U.S. government in the last two years.
Satya Nadella, CEO
Nadella set a high bar for what distinguishes the Microsoft ecosystem from other partner programs. He spent much of his keynote explaining what Microsoft stands for. Some of the principles he set for Microsoft provided the foundation for Smith’s speech later in the week.
Bryan Roper, Executive Demo Lead at Microsoft
“In Outlook 2016, there’s a very cool feature that I love now, and it basically utilizes the ‘most recently used’ across Office right in your attach segment here. So if I click this, you can see these documents are right there that I just worked on.” [Huge applause break.] “I know! It’s crazy.”
Roper was the breakout star of the WPC keynotes. In his hipster hat, Roper stole the show as the demo guy during Windows and Devices Group Executive Vice President Terry Myerson’s keynote. Partners cheered highlight after highlight during Roper’s detailed walkthrough of the best features of Windows 10 and Office 2016.
Julia White, General Manager, Microsoft Office Division
White effectively put any doubts about Microsoft’s commitment to on-premises SharePoint to rest with a flare reminiscent of Steve Ballmer’s famous bit about “Developers! Developers! Developers!”
Specifically, White called out use of the same codebase for SharePoint on-premise as in the cloud, hybrid-optimization, data loss prevention, e-discovery and the ability to tap Office Graph cloud capabilities.
Phil Sorgen, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Partner Group
Sorgen quoted IDC figures tracking how much revenue in the industry goes through the channel versus direct. The percentage is lower than during the heyday of the late 2000s, when the quoted numbers for Microsoft were 95 percent or higher. Yet the number is still extremely respectable considering Microsoft’s recent direct pushes with first-party hardware products. Meanwhile, the percentage now applies to much higher overall revenue numbers than it did back then.
Gavriella Schuster, General Manager, Microsoft Partner Network
Competencies have been a big deal since Microsoft transitioned the Microsoft Partner Program into the Microsoft Partner Network a few years ago. Microsoft seems to be de-emphasizing competencies now. The main competencies you hear about now are the four, soon to be five, cloud competencies. (The fifth, an Enterprise Mobility Suite competency, is slated for late September.) The CSP program will, in many ways, function as a new landing place for many partners, and, on the Azure side, certifications are bringing a new way for partners to declare hybrid solution expertise. The move to remove unique training MCP requirements unwinds much of the forced partner specialization that was engineered into the MPN competencies.
Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft
The word “Dynamics” there in Nadella’s keynote was significant. Many partners heard a new emphasis on Dynamics, both CRM and ERP, at WPC, and then again earlier in the Microsoft fourth quarter earnings call. After a period of uncertainty about how strategic Dynamics was as Microsoft partnered with Salesforce.com and apparently considered buying the company, the message from the top is that Dynamics still matters.
Scott Guthrie, Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group
As he worked his way through a long list of Microsoft cloud services intended to illustrate how uniquely thorough a set of offerings Microsoft has, Guthrie mentioned what might have been a jarring word in any other year: “Linux.” But Linux and other open source workloads were stars of the 2015 WPC. Microsoft had an open source pavilion in the expo center and recognized open source partner award winners.
Kevin Turner, CTO
This quote is actually a cheat. It didn’t come from the WPC. Turner issued the statement a few days later for Microsoft’s fourth quarter earnings statement. In some ways it’s more significant than anything Turner said in his WPC keynote, which was the usual mix of fieryexhortations to partners to sell more Microsoft products and digs against Microsoft’s competition.
The quote above was a rare mention of the channel in an earnings release, suggesting that Microsoft’s push via CSP to get partners more involved in cloud sales is strategic enough to mention to investors.
Turner also provided specific numbers for how many resellers will be brought into the new, much broader Surface reseller program. It’s about 30 times as many partners.
Ref: rcpmag.com Scott Bekker and WPC 2015 keynotes