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What To Expect at Microsoft Inspire

Like other media and analysts, I'm not invited to Microsoft Inspire, the annual partner confab in Las Vegas. The media lockout policy started last year due to Microsoft's decision to combine the partner conference with the company's internal sales conference, Microsoft Ready. (That broke a streak of 12 Worldwide Partner Conferences and Inspires for me.)

For those of you who are going, here's what to expect next Sunday through Thursday in America's gambling capital in the desert.

Microsoft is currently planning to hold four major addresses to the entire audience this year. These will also be live-streamed if you're not attending the show or if you want to monitor from your hotel room after a late night of networking.

Monday morning features the annual parade of Microsoft Partner of the Year award winners across the main stage. The first main Corenote comes from Judson Althoff, executive vice president of the Worldwide Commercial Business at Microsoft, on the theme of democratizing digital. Althoff is followed Monday morning by Microsoft channel chief Gavriella Schuster's annual talk about opportunities, program changes and new incentives for Microsoft partners.

The next batch of Corenotes is on Wednesday and is a joint session with the Microsoft Inspire and Microsoft Ready audiences. First, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provides his annual partner and business update. Then comes Microsoft President Brad Smith, who often uses his partner conference time to discuss Microsoft and technology in a larger context of global security, legal and business issues and trends.

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: Microsoft

The most important element of any Microsoft partner conference is connections, and there will be plenty of those available. The official word is that there will be 10,000 Microsoft partners in attendance from more than 130 countries during the week.

There are no Corenotes scheduled for Tuesday in order to allow more time for networking. Microsoft tends to be cyclical on this question, going through phases of tons of keynotes from various product groups with lots of demos in some years to fewer keynotes hitting mostly higher-level points in other years. We're in the latter phase of the cycle in 2019.

In a pre-Inspire session for media, Schuster said partners are telling her: "We come here to connect with people, we come here to connect with Microsoft, we come here to connect with each other. We do more business in this one week, then we do in probably six months." Microsoft is trying to maximize networking time this year, and she anticipates that the company will facilitate hundreds of thousands of meetings next week.

The whole show floor is configured to encourage impromptu meetings, with coffee bars and food areas and other places to sit and talk. The session count has been reduced by 20 percent to 30 percent, as well, Schuster said, in order to leave more time for partners to connect.

In that vein of lots of networking time and fewer product group Corenotes, the product demos will be few and far between. Those that do happen are supposed to have a high impact.

Microsoft spokesman Frank X. Shaw promised the media that a database demo in Nadella's Corenote will be impressive. "A wow database demo will show you how SQL runs from the edge to the cloud at an unprecedented scale. You will not see pigs flying. But there will be pigs on stage. And you'll have to tune in to see why. You'll also see an unprecedented demo the full power of Microsoft Teams plus PowerApps plus AI plus more shown through the lens of education," Shaw said.

What's Microsoft hoping partners will come away from Inspire with? We put that question to Schuster, and she gave us a six-point answer on partner business opportunities in Microsoft FY 2020:

  1. Microsoft Teams is the biggest opportunity "bar none."
  2. Security around Modern Workplace.
  3. PowerApps.
  4. Dynamics 365, especially migrations from on-premises, where the majority of customers remain.
  5. End-of-support migrations to Microsoft Azure from Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.
  6. Data and artificial intelligence.

Expect to hear a lot on each of those subjects next week.

Pro Tip
If you want to get some unscheduled face time with Microsoft's channel chief, hang out on the show floor. Schuster set up her official conference meeting room down there this year to avoid the usual situation where her meeting room is a 20-minute walk away. "Every time I'm in a break, I can just walk the floor and see everybody," Schuster said.

Dress for the Heat
Right now the forecast is calling for heat, heat, heat in Las Vegas. Highs of 109 degrees are expected for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, sliding down to 108 degrees Tuesday, 107 degrees on Wednesday and 106 degrees on Thursday.

Of course, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center will probably be near-freezing, so pack that sweater or sports coat.

If you see or hear anything interesting, let me know at [email protected].

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 11, 2019