The rate of growth in the Windows Store tailed off substantially from December to January, compared to the previous month.
The dropoff isn't surprising, given the holiday season in the United States and the fact that it's hard to maintain triple-digit growth rates as the underlying numbers get bigger. Still, at just under 25,000 apps, Microsoft is so far behind the relevant app stores -- Apple and Google -- that it needs the explosive growth to continue if it's going to be a factor in the app world.
RCP first counted the apps in the Windows Store on Nov. 7 and found 7,096 apps. A month later on Dec. 9, the raw number of apps was up to 18,125 for a 155 percent growth rate. Another count on Jan. 9 found 24,629 apps for a 36 percent month-over-month increase.
Things look slightly better, but only slightly, when comparing raw numbers. In the November-to-December period, the store gained 11,029 apps. In the December-to-January period, the store picked up 6,504 apps.
Overall, Microsoft's Windows Store has grown nearly 250 percent over the two months, which roughly correspond to the availability of Windows 8 and Windows RT, which became generally available on Oct. 26.
Windows Store App Growth by Category:
|CATEGORY ||DEC. 9 |
(# OF APPS)
|JAN. 9 |
(# OF APPS)
|Books & Reference ||1655 ||2676 ||62 |
|Sports ||483 ||757 ||57 |
|Finance ||213 ||316 ||48 |
|Games ||2438 ||3610 ||48 |
|Government ||65 ||94 ||45 |
|Music & Video ||588 ||846 ||44 |
|Travel ||658 ||928 ||41 |
|Business ||428 ||580 ||36 |
|Photo ||377 ||501 ||33 |
|Entertainment ||2465 ||3255 ||32 |
|Lifestyle ||762 ||999 ||31 |
|Education ||2551 ||3311 ||30 |
|Tools ||1708 ||2174 ||27 |
|Productivity ||841 ||1067 ||27 |
|Health & Fitness ||568 ||711 ||25 |
|Food & Dining ||523 ||654 ||25 |
|Shopping ||128 ||158 ||23 |
|Social ||379 ||467 ||23 |
|News & Weather ||1159 ||1375 ||19 |
|Security ||136 ||150 ||10 |
|Total ||18125 ||24629 ||36 |
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 10, 2013 at 5:12 AM7 comments
Lenovo is making a strong case that it's Microsoft's most committed OEM partner on Windows 8.
Anecdotally, the company's been the heaviest advertiser, in U.S. markets at least, for convertibles that take full advantage of the Windows 8 OS. On the shows I watch and sites I visit, IdeaPad Yoga ad saturation has been very high.
What's more important, though, is that the company has a diverse and compelling line of convertible PCs that really run with the idea that a Windows 8 PC can be your tablet and your PC -- more expensive than one or the other device but fully capable of doing everything either could do.
Nor is Lenovo sitting on the laurels of the Yoga and the ThinkPad Twist, two of the most interesting Windows 8 designs so far. At CES this week, Lenovo introduced another laptop/tablet hybrid that takes some of the ideas of those earlier models and moves them even further along.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix has a new design that Lenovo is calling "rip and flip." Like some other convertibles, i.e., the Microsoft Surface and some Dell, Acer and ASUS models, the screen separates from the keyboard to be a tablet. Lenovo's innovation hinges on, well, the hinge.
|The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix |
Like some other Windows 8 convertibles, the hinge is built into the keyboard, but on the Helix, it's much more pronounced. It makes for a less aesthetically pleasing keyboard when the Helix base is sitting around tablet-less, but the flexibility far outweighs the disadvantages.
The hinge allows the tablet to be removed, spun 180 degrees and reconnected -- enabling both tablet-style usage with the keyboard attached and "Stand" usage, similar to the Yoga and Twist, in which movies or presentations can be viewed while the screen is upright. As a tester of the Yoga, I found the Stand mode incredibly useful. The benefit of the new Helix design is that it would avoid some of the keyboard damage that might occur in Stand mode on the Yoga. With the Yoga's 360-degree hinge, the Stand mode puts the keys face-down, potentially leading to wear and tear. The Helix rests on the keyboard base.
The only other real problem I had with the Yoga was that the tablet mode was heavy. Because the Helix tablet can come free of the keyboard, that issue is also resolved in the Helix.
Lenovo has also separated the batteries on this Ultrabook PC. The tablet portion of the Helix has its own six-hour battery. But the keyboard also boasts a battery that can recharge the tablet battery or combine with it to provide 10-hour battery life, according to Lenovo.
With a 4G option, Near Field Communications capabilities and a pen built in to the tablet, Lenovo's Helix means it's also well positioned for when future apps start taking advantage of those technologies. Availability is expected in late February with a starting price of $1,499.
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 09, 2013 at 10:00 AM4 comments
Arlin Sorensen is getting out of the IT services and managed services provider business, for the most part, but he will remain a major force in the channel through his peer-to-peer and consulting projects.
Sorensen last week sold Heartland Technology Solutions, the company he started in 1985 on his family farm in Iowa, to another firm in Iowa -- WesTel Systems, a Remsen-based telecom and computer services company. The deal, for an undisclosed amount, moves 57 HTS employees, almost all of them, into WesTel. The rest, including Sorensen and a handful of key executives, will mostly serve in advisory roles for about a year while focusing on the other companies in the Heartland group.
|Arlin Sorensen |
Despite Sorensen's many contacts in tech through his advocacy of the P2P model, Sorensen said in an interview that this home-state deal actually involved people he hadn't met. WesTel was looking to diversify its business, and a broker in Des Moines connected the companies. "We started talking about three months ago or so and it just fell into place in a big hurry," Sorensen said.
It was an opportunity Sorensen and his company had been thoroughly prepared for. Through his Heartland Tech Groups, he's advocated for years that computer industry-pioneer owners put succession plans in place for their companies (see RCP's November 2009 feature "Passing the Torch," which includes sage advice from Arlin on the topic.) He'd stepped back from day-to-day management of HTS in 2009 when he promoted Connie Arentson, former vice president of professional services, to HTS president.
There's a different feel to being on the sell side of a transaction than the buy side, said Sorensen, who has been part of seven mergers and acquisitions. "When you're on the buy side, you're the driver, the pusher, you're the guys trying to get it together and make it all fit," he said. Being on the sell side required more patience than anything else, he added.
Sorensen's remaining companies are HTG, with its peer groups that include more than 300 MSPs and VARs; Heartland Leadership Group; HTS Ag, a new spinoff of precision agricultural solutions; and Varvid. In all, he'll still have 40 employees and a $2 million payroll.
"It's been 27 years. It's bittersweet. The good news is I'm not kidding myself that I'm going to go sit on a beach and retire. I've still got four companies to run. I'm excited about the opportunity to actually focus on some of these more startup organizations that have been taking the backseat the last couple of years," Sorensen said. "I'm not leaving the industry. I'm still doing HTC and the Peer Groups, but it won't be as an IT business owner. Overall, I'll still be hanging around the same people and doing the same things."
Posted by Scott Bekker on January 08, 2013 at 9:37 AM0 comments
Solution providers and their small-business customers have a few more weeks to take advantage of Section 179 deduction limits for 2012 taxes.
In an image gallery on Windows 8 PCs for small business, Microsoft noted a late November blog entry from the U.S. Small Business Administration. In that entry, the SBA calls out the 2012 "Section 179" deduction limits.
According to the blog:
"Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Section 179 of the tax code provides tax benefits for equipment purchases made before the end of the year. Typically when you purchase an item for your business, you can claim a tax deduction for it. But fixed assets are not counted in the year of purchase. Instead, they must be depreciated over a number of years. Section 179, however, allows you to fully deduct the cost of assets such as computers, furniture, certain business software, vehicles, manufacturing equipment and more in the year of purchase -- up to a certain amount."
Key words: computers and business software. This has been a popular section of the tax code for Microsoft partners for years both for internal use and to help spur sales with customers (see this 2006 RCP article.)
The limit for 2012 for an individual piece of equipment was $139,000, which would buy a pretty powerful system at current prices. The equipment purchased must be in place by Dec. 31, 2012. See more complete details here.
Posted by Scott Bekker on December 18, 2012 at 11:50 AM0 comments
When Microsoft launched Windows 8 on Oct. 25, former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky discouraged reporters from counting apps.
"Some might rush to start to count apps or look for their favorite apps to arrive in the store," Sinofsky said. In trying to explain why that shouldn't be the focus, Sinofsky, who quit Microsoft a few weeks later, said, "We see today as a grand opening, and a very solid one. On the screen behind me, you can see some of the thousands of new apps that are available today around the world. Developers everywhere are adding hundreds of new apps every day and that rate of addition is increasing as well."
While there has been anonymously sourced reporting that CEO Steve Ballmer's unhappiness with the app count at launch may have contributed to Sinofsky's surprising departure, Sinofsky's prediction about Windows Store growth is largely coming true.
Like many journalists, I viewed Sinofsky's admonishment not to count apps not as a deterrent but as a red cape waved in front of a bull. Early reviewers of Windows 8 or the Microsoft Surface RT noted that there were between 3,000 and 5,000 apps in the Store. When I got a chance to do a count of my own with a Windows 8 system on Nov. 7, I found about 7,000. A recount a little over a month later on Dec. 9 I found more than 18,000 for a 155 percent growth rate. It's nowhere near Apple's 275,000 iPad apps, but it's an impressive improvement rate. If Microsoft can keep developers coming in at that clip as the months roll by, the Windows Store should have a pretty serious app count by mid-2013.
Windows Store App Growth by Category:
|CATEGORY ||NOV. 7, 2012 |
(# OF APPS)
|DEC. 9, 2012 |
(# OF APPS)
|News & Weather ||308 ||1159 ||276 |
|Books & Reference ||479 ||1655 ||246 |
|Business ||126 ||428 ||240 |
|Food & Dining ||184 ||523 ||184 |
|Entertainment ||869 ||2465 ||184 |
|Lifestyle ||273 ||762 ||179 |
|Music & Videos ||211 ||588 ||179 |
|Education ||950 ||2551 ||169 |
|Health & Fitness ||229 ||568 ||148 |
|Security ||55 ||136 ||147 |
|Tools ||697 ||1708 ||145 |
|Social ||158 ||379 ||140 |
|Sports ||210 ||483 ||130 |
|Finance ||93 ||213 ||129 |
|Travel ||291 ||658 ||126 |
|Shopping ||62 ||128 ||106 |
|Games ||1209 ||2438 ||102 |
|Government ||33 ||65 ||97 |
|Photo ||197 ||377 ||91 |
|Productivity ||462 ||841 ||82 |
|Total ||7096 ||18125 ||155 |
Ed.'s Note: Due to a typo, the percentage increase in productivity apps from November to December was misstated in an earlier version of the table. The correct figure for the increase is 82 percent.
Posted by Scott Bekker on December 13, 2012 at 9:28 AM0 comments
Microsoft on Tuesday launched Cloud Deployment, a program for systems integration (SI) partners that is designed to drive successful Office 365 implementations with large customers.
To qualify for the program, partners must belong to Microsoft's Cloud Accelerate program and have a gold or silver competency in Messaging. To get in Cloud Accelerate, partners must have sold at least three deals totaling at least 150 seats among other requirements.
"We're lining it up with our Enterprise Agreement motion," Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, said in an interview. "We've got [large account resellers] in conjunction with our account teams out selling Enterprise Agreements that have Office 365 attached. We have a lot of traction on the selling side. We want to complement that with another partner motion."
With larger customers, many Office 365 deals involve hybrid deployments with part in the cloud and part of the infrastructure remaining on-premise. Roskill said those deployments usually range from a mixed Exchange environment, with some on-premise and some in the cloud, to a mixed product environment, in which Exchange might be entirely cloud but it would integrate with on-premise Microsoft servers such as SharePoint or Lync.
Roskill said the new program will help Microsoft and LARs connect customers with partners who have the expertise required to make those implementations work. The program will also include deployment funding for the SI partner on a per-seat basis.
"We'll be talking to the customer about a range of resources that can help them activate into the cloud. It could include Microsoft Consulting advising from an architecture perspective or it can include a couple different types of partners," Roskill said.
Catapult Systems Inc., an Austin, Texas-based Microsoft National Systems Integrator, has been helping Microsoft test the program since this fall, said Sean McNeill, a managing consultant at Catapult and an Office 365 Technical Evangelist. Catapult, which boasts 21 competencies, including gold in Messaging, and also placed seventh on RCP's "Most Competent Partners" list in July, also joined the Cloud Accelerate program when it started a few years ago.
"We've been in [Cloud Deployment] a couple of months now, and it's been very beneficial," McNeill said.
The top benefit by far has been a new dedicated partner support team that allows partners to bypass the first and second tiers of Microsoft support, McNeill said. "When we run into any roadblocks or any issues in implementation, we can go directly to third-level engineering support within Microsoft," he said.
McNeill also said that he's seeing a second-order benefit of Cloud Deployment -- it's serving as a clearinghouse for best practices knowledge. "Microsoft learns about implementation from partners, as well. That information is shared through this program with all these partners. One example would be identity federation -- 'Here are some possible gotchas and here is the quick workaround,'" he said.
Other concrete benefits of Cloud Deployment cited by McNeill are intensive partner training opportunities, such as Ignite training sessions and solution alignment workshops, and a deployment readiness tool.
Roskill said more benefits are being developed for Cloud Deployment, which is serving as a model for other programs coming from the Microsoft Partner Network.
McNeill expects that the program, by leveraging the strength of the Microsoft ecosystem, will help that same ecosystem in the cloud market. "Google is out there. This shows the real strong partnership between the provider being Microsoft and the partners. Microsoft has the strong channel," he said.
Posted by Scott Bekker on December 04, 2012 at 12:31 PM1 comments
A relatively minor change in the way Microsoft partners can sign up for the Cloud Essentials program is leading to a boom in the number of participants, according to Microsoft's top channel executive.
Cloud Essentials has always been a relatively easy program for partners to join. A free sign-up and a modest amount of training gives partners access to 25 internal use right seats each for Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online and Windows Intune. Other benefits include presales and technical support, marketing resources and sales incentives.
Yet participation stayed stubbornly low. Of the 640,000 partners Microsoft routinely claims to have, only 43,000 had signed up in the program's first two years.
Apparently, the trick is where and when you ask partners to join. Until a little over a week ago, partners had to navigate to Cloud Essentials-specific pages, such as microsoftcloudpartner.com. But on Nov. 20, Microsoft turned joining Cloud Essentials into a one-button step that is part of the regular re-enrollment process in the Microsoft Partner Network.
"We've had over 15,000 partners signed up in one week," Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, said in an interview Thursday. With the program growing by almost a third in one week, Roskill has high hopes for the rest of the year.
"My expectation now is that we're going to track to be over 100,000 in the Cloud Essentials program this calendar year," Roskill said. "What this shows is how important it is to get the experience on the portal right."
Microsoft announced the Cloud Essentials change in a Nov. 20 blog entry, marking the start of a number of MPN changes that had been announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July.
Microsoft's goal with Cloud Essentials is to get partners familiar with Microsoft's cloud suites and get them selling without asking for major investments upfront. Some of those investments and commitments come later -- for example, re-enrolling in Cloud Essentials for a second year requires that a partner sell 25 seats worth of cloud services in the first year. The next level program, Cloud Accelerate, is similar in its requirements to obtaining a silver competency in the MPN.
Posted by Scott Bekker on December 03, 2012 at 7:23 AM0 comments
Last week we posted a gallery of the Windows Phone 8 devices coming to the major U.S. carriers and noted that Sprint was alone among the Big Four without a device.
Well, that hasn't changed, but there is one very minor update. At the time, the latest was that Sprint had said it was working with Microsoft on delivering a Windows Phone 8 device, but had no details to share on launch dates or manufacturers.
This week, PC Mag hounded a new e-mail statement out of a Sprint spokesperson: "Sprint and Microsoft are partnering to bring Windows Phone 8 to Sprint's customers -- operating on its 4G LTE network -- next year."
The other three major carriers -- AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless -- are each rolling out the 8X by HTC and one or more Nokia phones this month. Verizon is also working with Samsung on a mysterious phone called the ATIV Odyssey, which is supposed to be available in December.
Posted by Scott Bekker on November 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM0 comments
Microsoft mega-partner Avanade this week announced plans to buy Microsoft National Systems Integrator Azaleos Corp. in a deal expected to close within a month.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Avanade, which was formed as a joint venture by Accenture and Microsoft in 2000, has about 17,000 employees in more than 20 countries. Azaleos' 200 employees will be offered positions at Avanade in support of the Azaleos business.
With the acquisition, Avanade would pick up a managed services provider with special expertise in Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Lync.
In a statement, Avanade CEO Adam Warby praised the Azaleos technology and said Avanade would be able to take the Azaleos solutions to a much wider market globally.
Azaleos is one of 33 Microsoft National Systems Integrators in the United States.
Posted by Scott Bekker on November 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM0 comments
IBM announced to its partners on Thursday that it will provide $4 billion in financing over the next 12 months for credit-qualified clients. The total, intended to spur technology purchases by small and midsize businesses worldwide, represents a quadrupling of the amount of financing IBM had promised a little over a year ago.
In September 2011, IBM had committed to providing $1 billion in financing, an amount Big Blue expected to need about 18 months to dole out. Instead, some 6,800 companies around the world used that financing in just 12 months.
"Smaller businesses, in particular, exhibited a stronger than expected appetite for new technology, including analytics, cloud and advanced infrastructure," IBM stated in a news release about the expanded financing.
Emboldened by the ability of the IBM-provided financing to kickstart purchases in spite of ongoing struggles in the global economy, IBM is upping its own stimulus effort with partners as the evangelists.
"The gap between a promising vision and a business reality appears to be even more of an unbridgeable chasm. With this effort, IBM aims to provide the right foundation and resources to our global ecosystem of partners and clients to ensure that businesses, large and small, have access to the right technologies for success," said Mark Hennessy, general manager of IBM Global Business Partners & Midmarket, in a statement.
The financing will be made available through IBM Business Partners in more than 50 countries. Partners can also use the financing themselves to expand their own businesses. In the United States, the offerings are provided through IBM Credit LLC and the minimum transaction size is $5,000.
At the same time as IBM is increasing its pool of credit, the company is also launching a new mobile app that will allow IBM Business Partners to apply for financing on behalf of their clients from a sales call and get an answer back within minutes, the company said.
Earlier in the week, HP also expanded its Extended Finance Program for resellers.
Posted by Scott Bekker on November 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM0 comments
Microsoft will keep prices lower for partners to enroll in the Small Business silver competency indefinitely, Microsoft's top channel executive says.
Since rolling out the Small Business competency earlier this year, Microsoft has kept the enrollment fee of the Small Business silver competency lower than for its other silver competencies in the Microsoft Partner Network. In the United States, most silver competencies cost $1,850. The Small Business silver competency was initially priced at $999 through Dec. 31, 2012.
"The special promotion price will be extended through June 30, 2013. On July 1, 2013, the silver membership cost will be at a global average price of $1,490USD," said Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, in an e-mail interview with RCPmag.com this week.
For U.S. partners, that means that even after the promotion ends, the price will still be $360 lower than most other silver competencies would cost. In this case, the U.S. subsidiary price and the global average price are the same.
Microsoft is also holding the line on the Small Business gold competency when the price of all other gold competencies goes up later this month. While most gold competency fees will jump from $3,800 a year to $5,260 a year starting Nov. 19 (U.S. prices), the Small Business gold competency will remain at $3,800.
Many partners serving small business have lobbied Microsoft for years to create a Small Business competency. The competency structure, however, comes with much higher fees than the older Small Business Specialist Community, which partners often joined for only a little more than the few hundred dollars required to subscribe to Microsoft's Action Pack.
"Most Microsoft partners who specialize in providing solutions and services to small businesses are small businesses themselves. The Microsoft Small Business competency addresses the unique needs of these partners, with more tailored benefits and requirements, and a cost-effective enrollment fee for attaining the gold [or silver] competency," Roskill said in the e-mail.
For more of our Q&A with Jon Roskill about the changes to the gold competency fees and the general value proposition of the MPN, keep an eye out for our December issue.
Posted by Scott Bekker on November 12, 2012 at 4:13 PM0 comments
The critically acclaimed Touch Cover on the Microsoft Surface RT has a problem.
The Touch Cover is the thin cover that attaches magnetically to the Surface and can be used to protect the screen or, when folded out, as a keyboard. In black, it's a $100 upgrade to the Surface's $499 base price; other colors cost $120.
Over the last few days, several tech industry sites have been reporting problems with the cover coming apart near the point where it attaches magnetically to the Surface itself.
Here's one such complaint from a Microsoft Surface support site.
"My colleague and I both have a black touch cover (UK), we both have the same issue - in the centre where the touch cover is connected to the long black plastic bracket which houses the 6 pins which contact to the surface, the canvas of the touch cover appears to have come away from the plastic on my colleague[']s so much that you can see inside the touch cover. The length of the area that appears to have come away is about 15mm. While this doesn't appear normal I wanted to check if others were having the same issue? It seems strange that it has happened to two devices which are used independently."
The Guardian has a few photos of what the damage looks like here.
Microsoft appears to be responding appropriately by sending out new Touch Covers quickly to affected users or replacing them in Microsoft Stores without any hassle, but the issue does detract from the company's rather successful early narrative that the Surface is a marvel of industrial design and quality. At this point, Microsoft's official line is that the problem with the two-week-old hardware is very uncommon.
Posted by Scott Bekker on November 12, 2012 at 5:32 PM3 comments