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Channel Watch

Five Big Themes To Watch at WPC 2014

From Satya Nadella's first WPC as Microsoft CEO to Kevin Turner's annual kick-in-the-pants keynote, here's what we're looking out for during this year's conference.

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this month may be the most pivotal of the 10 Redmond Channel Partner has covered (we launched the magazine at WPC 2005 in Minneapolis). In addition to any news Microsoft makes at the WPC, here are five themes we'll be tracking in Washington, D.C., during the week of July 13.

Nadella's Channel Vision
Satya Nadella is no stranger to WPC regulars -- he's given keynotes for several years running from his previous perch as president of the Server and Tools Business. Yet, in 2014, he has an outsize role. It's his debut to partners as CEO of the company. Nadella has talked a little about partners since being named CEO in February, but most partner impressions have come from interpreting statements he's made about other things. The kickoff keynote at the WPC is Nadella's opportunity to formally and fully introduce himself as a CEO to Microsoft's partner ecosystem. What's more important is that it's a chance for partners to hear Nadella's vision for how the channel fits into Microsoft's mobile-first, cloud-first world.

Satya Nadella

Nadella as Salesman
One thing Steve Ballmer did very well as CEO was act as a sparkplug at the beginning of the WPC that got partners excited for a week of frantic activity. Ballmer had the soul of a salesman, and that resonated with partners. Nadella's is a more reserved presence than Ballmer's (and whose isn't?). It will be interesting to see how partners respond to the new CEO.

Competitive Fire
Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner usually wraps up the Microsoft keynotes with a kick-in-the-pants, get-out-there-and-sell pitch. A popular element is KT's one-liners disparaging competitors. Will new partnerships with Oracle and Salesforce.com -- and a different man in the corner office -- lead to a more subdued speech when it comes to the competition?

MC Phil Sorgen
Microsoft's worldwide channel chief typically serves as master of ceremonies at the WPC and provides a keynote. While Phil Sorgen has been corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group for 10 months, this is his first time out front at a partner conference.

MPN and Incentives
As Microsoft's 2015 fiscal year begins, partners will use the WPC to find out the details about which core products Microsoft will invest in most heavily with channel incentives. But the Microsoft Partner Network is several years old now, and Sorgen recently changed the MPN's leadership. Meanwhile, Microsoft has been altering fee structures for licensing and cloud partners. There's a chance of fundamental new changes in programs and payments. A sub-theme is how transparent Microsoft will be about any of those changes in the public portions of the WPC.

We'll bring you news and analysis from the show at RCPmag.com and in the Redmond Channel Partner Update e-mail newsletter, plus I'll live-tweet the keynotes via @scottbekker.

More Columns by Scott Bekker:

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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