Channel Watch

7 Things We Learned in 2011

For starters, this tablet thing seems to be really taking off.

In many ways, the sixth year of Redmond Channel Partner magazine has been the most exciting. The technology industry crackled throughout 2011. Here are some of the top things we learned this year:

1. Tablets Matter
They were supposed to be toys. Many of us dissed the Apple iPad in 2010. By the time the iPad 2 came around earlier this year, almost everybody recognized at once that these toys were important. And they're potentially productive as well as fun (see "23 Intriguing iPad Apps for Microsoft Partners").

2. Microsoft Can Innovate
You don't hear as much from Microsoft about innovation these days. Maybe because Microsoft is committing some obvious innovation, so they don't have to talk about it. The most visible examples are the Windows Phone and Windows 8. In fact, the question now isn't whether Microsoft can innovate, it's whether Microsoft can market and sell, which is something of a reversal.

3. The UI of the Future Is Cool
And Microsoft is a player. Microsoft has been quietly converging different product lines on the Metro interface -- Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox all sport the tell-tale tiles. Touch is great on its own, but it's getting combined with motion sensing (Kinect) and voice (Tellme), in addition to the mouse and keyboard. I'm so excited about the possibilities that I won't even complain when Microsoft tries to ruin it by insisting for the umpteenth time that a stylus belongs in the mix.

4. Partners Are Sticking with Microsoft
Microsoft asked a lot of its partners in the first full year of the Microsoft Partner Network. And partners didn't bolt. We had an idea of this from the attendance at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July. We got confirmation from the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group with numbers last month (see this month's cover story, "The Microsoft Partner Network's First Year: What Changed, What Worked and Where Does the Cloud Fit?").

5. Steven Sinofsky Is a Heavy Hitter Inside Microsoft
The senior Microsoft executive had a rock-solid history with Office, hit a home run on Windows 7, reportedly won the tablet wars inside Microsoft's walls against J Allard and the Courier, and has the industry enthused about Windows 8. All eyes will be on him for 2012 for the big Windows 8 launch.

6. Ballmer Was Right
Yet another year has passed without the global economic recovery the business world is waiting for. With each passing year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's comments from February 2009 seem even more on the mark: "What we now have will be a fundamental economic reset."

7. Steve Jobs Was a Giant
When it comes to technology, his passing was the saddest significant event of the year. Reality distortion field or not, the guy made exciting things happen for decades.

Those were my top seven takeaways. What did I miss? Leave a comment below or let me know at [email protected].

About the Author

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