Inspire 2023: Microsoft Relaunches Partner Program for AI Era

Only nine months after its launch, the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program has a new name, one that reflects Microsoft's full-bore embrace of AI in every part of its stack.

The new Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program launched Tuesday, officially replacing the MCPP. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the program during his opening keynote at the 2023 Microsoft Inspire conference.

The new program is effective immediately; all current MCPP members will be transitioned into the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program without any action needed on their part, and they'll keep all of their current designations and benefits.

In a blog post, Nicole Dezen, chief partner officer at Microsoft, detailed Microsoft's vision for the new program and the reasoning behind it. The Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program is the "next generation" of the MCPP, she indicated, one designed to put partners in the position to benefit from the changing and increasingly complex demands of modern customers, which presumably can only be met by leveraging AI-enabled solutions.

"Partners who lean into this new economic opportunity are creating value for their customers, for their own company, and for the greater economy of their community or country," Dezen said.

The company designed the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program to have "all the value and benefits of the [MCPP], plus access to new offerings and benefits specific to AI." Combining "AI" and "Cloud" in the name reflects Microsoft's stance that these two technologies are inextricable. According to Dezen:

Customers' cloud adoption needs are rapidly evolving. AI is here now, and our partners are already driving innovation and transformation with customers across industries to help them realize the benefits of integrating AI capabilities into every level of their organizations. Through the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program, we’re providing partners with a comprehensive portfolio of investments for all partner business models, at every stage of maturity, from startups to independent software vendors (ISV), services to device partners.

Among the AI-specific benefits of the new partner program are:

  • A $100 million investment in Azure Innovate, a program designed to support partners building solutions with analytics and AI capabilities.
  • Access to a forthcoming "industrial metaverse" offering for Solutions Partners that is expected to enter public preview in "early 2024."
  • A new Build and Modernize AI Apps with Microsoft Azure partner specialization.
  • Opportunities to participate in the Microsoft Security Copilot design advisory council.
  • Access to the newly announced Microsoft AIM program, which provides partners with resources to help customers move to the cloud.
  • Access to the "AI Transformation Playbook," a guidebook for partners cultivating an AI practice.
  • AI-specific marketing resources.

Said Dezen, "Whether you are a startup or a well-established global business, there is an opportunity for every partner to monetize your IP or your services to accelerate customer success through Microsoft AI and Microsoft Cloud."

For more context around the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program, read this Q&A with Julie Sanford, vice president of Partner GTM, Programs & Experiences at Microsoft.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.