Microsoft U.S. channel chief Jenni Flinders has an interesting recent blog post about redefining your role in your business.
Acknowledging that most partners had an entrepreneurial start, she calls on partners to avoid the comfortable rut of day-to-day business post start-up:
"I encourage each of you to consider how you can be your own company's Entrepreneur in Chief, bring a sense of energy and urgency to your daily work, even if you're well past true start-up stage."
Given that companies in the channel need to reinvent themselves on a constant basis, it's timely advice. Flinders' call may be even more appropriate now in this time of broad industry shifts to mobile and cloud.
Posted by Scott Bekker on February 04, 2013 at 12:43 PM1 comments
Microsoft shed some light last week on the state of the "great migration" -- the Herculean effort by enterprises worldwide to get their desktops on Windows 7 before Windows XP support officially expires in April 2014.
During an earnings call Thursday, CFO Peter Klein said that more than 60 percent of enterprise desktops worldwide are now on Windows 7.
Asked by a financial analyst for a forecast on the pace of the migration, Klein offered this:
"The one thing I would say is, not only are over 60 percent on Windows 7, but about 90 percent have expressed that they have a plan to do that. So, I expect to see sort of a steady drumbeat between now and the end of life for XP support in April 2014 for that to continue, because the incentive is there and the desire to do that has been expressed by our customers. So, I would expect to see that continue over the next year, year and a quarter."
Here's a question. Where does Windows 8 fit into that picture?
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 28, 2013 at 12:55 PM1 comments
Notice how heavily Microsoft's been advertising lately to raise awareness about Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Microsoft Surface? You'd have to be boycotting TV and the Web not to see the campaigns.
Microsoft's bean counters certainly noticed. In the investor call on Thursday to discuss earnings for the three months that ended in December, the new general manager of investor relations, Chris Suh, made clear how significant those ad buys and other marketing investments are to Microsoft's balance sheet.
"Operating expenses grew 10 percent to $8.0 billion, primarily related to marketing for product launches," Suh said, according to a Microsoft transcript of the call. Slightly more detail on how much Microsoft spent marketing Windows 8 and Surface is provided in the company's 10Q filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Microsoft spent $592 million more on sales and marketing expenses, mostly advertising, for the half compared to the same period in 2011, and $420 million more on those costs in the most recent quarter compared to the year-ago period.
Microsoft's overall net income for the quarter was $6.4 billion, so spending hundreds of millions more on launch marketing is a significant investment.
Critics could argue the money was wasted. After all, the global PC market not only didn't get a bump from Windows 8 in Q4, demand actually fell compared to the same quarter a year ago. Meanwhile, Windows Phone sales did quadruple (from a tiny number in the comparable quarter.)
Surely Microsoft can't be as thrilled with the quarter as it's saying it is, but the company can and does play a long game. Awareness investments are setting up customers for the coming months when more PCs with touch capabilities and better prices are available through more channel outlets. Microsoft CFO Peter Klein pretty much acknowledged that's Microsoft's plan and expectation: "It's early days and an ambitious endeavor like this takes time."
Microsoft hasn't been advertising this much in years, but the company hasn't had as much to tell consumers about since Windows 95. Investors may not love the amount Microsoft is spending on marketing, but then again, investors haven't liked much about Microsoft since 1999.
Hopefully the added air cover in consumer advertising is also spurring more business conversations for Microsoft partners.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 28, 2013 at 9:32 AM0 comments
As Microsoft experiments with broader routes to market for the channel with Office 365, one Microsoft National Systems Integrator (NSI) is trying out a new licensing agreement model for government clients and their partners.
Planet Technologies announced this month that it is the first Microsoft partner authorized under a new licensing model called the Microsoft Office 365 Agreement for Online Services for Government (AOS-G).
The Germantown, Md.-based NSI is a five-time Microsoft Federal Partner of the Year and has a robust and growing business based on packaging services around Microsoft's cloud services for federal, state and local government customers. While Planet has been supporting the public sector on cloud since the Business Productivity Online Suite days and has client deployments ranging from 50 users to more than 50,000 seats, licensing always went through a Microsoft Large Account Reseller.
"Now I can offer my clients a one-stop shop and make the procurement a lot more efficient," said Scott Tucker, CEO of Planet Technologies. "They can get the license and services from me, and there's additional margin to it."
Tucker says he's expecting the arrangement will bring more incremental revenue on individual deals for Planet even as the overall number of Office 365 opportunities is increasing.
"Our Office 365 business today is going through the roof from a services standpoint, and we're hiring people rapidly to support it. I'm confident that this will augment our growth because [selling licenses] isn't something we're able to do today," Tucker said.
The pilot program for government partners comes as Microsoft is also readying new direct billing options for partners serving the private sector.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 23, 2013 at 5:13 AM0 comments
As PC sales continue to decline, some analysts are revising their working hypothesis for how tablets will affect the PC market.
Earlier this week, Gartner released preliminary results for worldwide PC sales in the fourth quarter. The results were bracing for the PC industry. Overall shipments were down 5 percent to 90 million units.
Dell, reportedly on the auction block to go private, fared worst with a 21 percent decline compared to the prior-year quarter, followed by Acer Group's 11 percent drop. Lenovo did best with an 8 percent increase in shipments. ASUS saw shipments increase 6 percent, while HP held steady.
Principal analyst at Gartner Mikako Kitagawa sees more than a weak economy at play.
"Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by 'cannibalizing' PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs," Kitagawa said in a statement.
Speaking for Gartner, Kitagawa explained how the firm's framework for thinking about tablets is changing.
"Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC," Kitagawa said.
That's leading Gartner to hypothesize that buyers won't replace secondary PCs in their households. While that's an overall negative for PC shipment volume, it could lead to higher average selling prices to support richer applications, according to the Stamford, Conn.-based market research firm.
Of course, other factors are at play. Gartner also pointed out that for the Windows 8 launch, PC vendors offered products that were too expensive and "somewhat lackluster form factors in their Windows 8 offerings and missed the excitement of touch." It's worth noting that Lenovo, which did come out with exciting form factors and jumped on touch, had the best quarter.
None of this is settled. But this "shared PC for production and tablets for consumption" hypothesis will be an interesting one to consider as the numbers roll in from future quarters.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 18, 2013 at 5:23 AM2 comments
Red Hat Inc. highlighted its channel momentum during its North America Partner Conference this week.
The open source solution provider says channel bookings have increased from 53 percent of total bookings in fiscal year 2008 to 60 percent in fiscal year 2012. The company also suggested that its channel momentum is increasing, with a 65 percent booking percentage from the channel in Red Hat's third quarter of fiscal year 2013.
Meanwhile, Red Hat rolled out a few enhancements to its partner program this week. After introducing a lead referral program and more channel staff last year, Red Hat is now bolstering the program with an overhauled training curriculum for partners and a browser-based demo lab.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 17, 2013 at 5:23 AM0 comments
Nokia, Microsoft's all-in Windows Phone partner, today announced it will lay off 300 employees.
The move is part of a streamlining of Nokia's global IT organization to fit the company's smaller global scale and will also involve transferring IT activities and about 820 employees to HCL Technologies and TATA Consultancy Services. Most of the affected employees are in Nokia's home country of Finland.
According to Nokia, the effective cut of about 1,120 staff is the last anticipated staff reduction in a massive restructuring announced in June 2012, when Nokia said about 10,000 jobs would be eliminated by the end of 2013.
The once-dominant phone maker is in the midst of a monumental turnaround effort. Nokia found itself losing share rapidly as the Apple iPhone and Google Android-based devices surged. In February 2011, CEO Stephen Elop responded with a controversial revitalization plan that involved de-emphasizing Nokia's own phone software in favor of Windows Phone via a major partnership with Microsoft. Markets punished Nokia's stock for the strategy and for Nokia's slow progress in taking share from other smartphone makers and platforms with Windows Phones, even as sales of Nokia's proprietary-OS phones declined faster than the company had projected.
Last week, Nokia surprised the markets with better-than-expected sales of the Lumia, Nokia's brand of smartphones running Windows Phone. The company reported sales of 4.4 million Lumia smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2012, aligning with a major wave of marketing for Windows Phone 8 by Microsoft and major carriers. While the numbers still pale in comparison to sales volumes for leading smartphone brands, the growth was far more robust than anything Nokia has shown before with Windows Phones.
Nokia reports earnings for the fourth quarter and the full year on Jan. 24.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 17, 2013 at 10:25 AM0 comments
A boutique telephony distributor is launching an affiliate program for Microsoft partners who sell and deploy Lync solutions, but who generally stay away from the handset and telephony side.
Novus LLC on Wednesday announced the Novus Endpoint Affiliate Program. The program is designed for Microsoft partners who sell Lync but who lack the expertise to push the enterprise voice component of Lync solutions that involve full-fledged telephony along with handsets.
"We view Microsoft Lync Enterprise Voice as a great revenue generator, for both Microsoft Partners and resellers. We'll provide the telephony expertise, so you can focus on software and server issues," Novus wrote in a blog post announcing the affiliate program.
To be eligible for the program, participants must be authorized Microsoft partners and sign an agreement with Novus. From there, partners enter an opportunity. If the deal has not already been registered, Novus works within its own network to find a reseller to handle the handset and enterprise voice side.
If the lead culminates in sales of "Qualified for Microsoft Lync" devices including IP desk phones, meeting room devices, headsets or cameras, the affiliate partners are eligible for rebates ranging from $4 to $9 per phone.
Novus' description of the program is available here.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 16, 2013 at 10:33 AM0 comments
Microsoft always plays long games, and the Microsoft Surface is no exception. But a recent analyst's credible downgrade of Microsoft Surface RT sales for the fourth quarter suggests the long game is getting even longer.
I argued recently that with the pricing of the original Microsoft Surface, Microsoft wasn't aiming for a blockbuster success. Instead it just probably wanted to stay in the consumer conversation and keep a place in line for the Microsoft Surface Pro, which is Microsoft's best chance for beating Apple back from the enterprise. (The full column, along with a lively thread, in which readers alternately make good points and/or tell me I'm completely wrong, is available here.)
The analyst is Brent Thill at UBS AG and he cut his estimate from 2 million units to 1 million units for the quarter ending in December. Yes, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said Microsoft expected to sell a "few million" Surfaces in its first year. But selling 1 million in the quarter when it launched, during the holiday season, in conjunction with a huge ad campaign? I find it hard to believe that kind of number was even on the low end of anybody's "slow but steady" sales projection PowerPoint slide in Redmond.
Because the numbers appear to be disappointing, don't expect any word at all from Microsoft. When a product performs poorly, Microsoft has a big enough balance sheet to bury it and hide the details from investors. Next week's earnings call is almost sure to be devoid of numbers for Surface sales.
Nonetheless, Microsoft is used to disappointingly slow starts for its long games lately. Look at Bing vs. Google or Windows Phone vs. iPhone/Android. If those two are any guide, expect Microsoft to do what it's been doing -- keep diligently plugging away. The company took the time (probably too much) to set a coherent mobile strategy behind the current product mix, and it has little choice now but to press on.
Next up, the Surface Pro. Panos Panay, the general manager for Microsoft Surface, Tweeted this week, "On my way to the factory to check out #Surface Pro coming off the line...arriving in the coming weeks." In his report, meanwhile, Thill wrote, "Surface Pro is the more promising" model.
Be that as it may, given Microsoft's recent track record, expect a slow start for Surface Pro.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 16, 2013 at 12:54 PM9 comments
Kaseya began shipping a major update of its core management framework this week for managed service providers and corporate IT departments.
The Kaseya 6.3 Framework and several new and updated modules make hundreds of improvements across the IT automation platform. Some of the most noteworthy enhancements are:
- Version parity. Kaseya now boasts parity between the on-premise version and the Software-as-a-Service version.
- Improved discovery. A new Kaseya Discovery module is designed to cut the time needed to bring a new network under Kaseya's management. A consolidated network discovery process uses multiple scanning methods, including ping, NMAP and domain scans, to quickly collect data on available devices.
- Endpoint OS support. The Framework adds support for Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Apple OS X Mountain Lion and Apple iOS 6.
- Best practices. Kaseya built in hundreds of pre-defined views, maintenance routines and policies to help users get the most out of the toolset based on previous users' and Kaseya's experience.
- Scalability increase. Each server can now manage up to 25,000 devices.
- Automated policy management and more customizable reporting.
More information on the release is available here.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 16, 2013 at 10:27 AM0 comments
As he embarks on his post-Microsoft career, the executive force behind Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface took 15 hours to cruise the Consumer Electronics Show floor in Vegas.
Upon his return from CES this week, Steven Sinofsky wrote up his observations in a massive blog post called "Learning by Sharing: Snark-free CES observations." The whole thing is worth reading for observations on mobile computing, design trends, product quality and other topics from an ultimate tech industry mover and shaker.
But a portion of the blog that's especially interesting from the former president of Windows for Microsoft is Sinofsky's take on the PC hardware on display at CES. Sinofsky is largely responsible for the Microsoft Surface, a piece of technology that angered many of the PC OEMs that are traditionally Microsoft's closest partners. Opinions vary on whether Microsoft was trying to crowd OEMs out or inspire them with better designs, but neither approach was very encouraging for Microsoft's longtime hardware partners.
Sinofsky had enthusiastic words for the new Windows 8 PCs on display, including the categories of devices most similar to the Surface.
"There were a number of hybrid PCs (tablet with removeable/hideable/flippable keyboards) that are becoming clearer and more refined -- I especially liked the Samsung and Lenovo entries," Sinofsky wrote.
He noted that Dell, HP and Microsoft didn't have their own booths, but pointed out that there were plenty of PCs designed for Windows 8.
"Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic, Lenovo all had very nice PCs with hiqh-quality touch, nice trackpads, great screens, thin, light, and in a variety of screen sizes 11-15," he wrote. "The All-In-One PCs with touch were quite nice as well, especially Sony and Samsung's models. The Vizio lineup continues to evolve and show unique designs and good value."
He called out a Razer Core i7 gaming tablet for having "some awesome gaming attachments" and described being blown away by a Panasonic 20-inch tablet. "Seeing the quality of AutoCAD drawings showed a real value to the full 'stack' of hardware and software," Sinofsky said of the Panasonic.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 15, 2013 at 5:23 AM0 comments
Continuum is opening up its network operations center to provide custom projects on behalf of its MSPs.
The Boston-based company announced the program, called Continuum Tech Advantage, this week as an addition to its SaaS-based managed services platform that currently serves 3,300 MSPs and around 500,000 endpoints. In short, Continuum MSPs can now take advantage of the expertise of 200 of Continuum's certified engineers and technicians who will offer a menu of about 80 server and desktop projects.
Examples of projects Continuum's NOC staff can carry out for customers on behalf of an MSP include Active Directory setup; installation and configuration of VMware vCenter, ESX and ESXi; Exchange Server migrations; and installation and configuration of Citrix XenApp.
In a statement, Rob Autor, senior vice president of global service delivery at Continuum, said the 24x7 service will be expanded in the coming months to cover more types of low-cost, high-value projects.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 15, 2013 at 2:18 PM0 comments