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How LinkedIn Stacks Up Against Other Microsoft Acquisitions

If successful, Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion would be the tech giant's highest-valued deal to date by a huge margin. The face value of the LinkedIn agreement is more than triple what Microsoft paid for the next biggest acquisition, Skype. The LinkedIn offer is about half the size of Microsoft's $44.6 billion bid in 2008 for Yahoo, but that deal ultimately did not go through.

Here are Microsoft's acquisitions worth $1 billion or more, ranked by their value at the time:

Rank Company Year Value
1 LinkedIn 2016 $26.2 billion
2 Skype 2011 $8.5 billion
3 Nokia (partial) 2013 $7.2 billion
4 aQuantive 2007 $6.3 billion
5 Mojang 2014 $2.5 billion
6 Fast Search & Transfer 2008 $1.9 billion
7 Visio Corp. 2000 $1.4 billion
8 Navision 2002 $1.3 billion
9 Yammer 2012 $1.2 billion


Posted by Scott Bekker on June 13, 2016 at 9:15 AM0 comments

BitTitan Raises $15 Million in Outside Funding

BitTitan, which sells a broad array of tools that help partners sell, onboard and maintain cloud services from Microsoft and others, has closed a $15 million Series A financing round, which will allow the company to boost its engineering and global sales efforts.

The 9-year-old Kirkland, Wash.-based company did not disclose the specific percentage stake that the investors led by San Diego-based growth equity firm TVC Capital were getting in the company or what the deal means for the overall valuation of BitTitan.

"It is a small percentage of the company, and we are adding one person to our board," said Barney Silver, vice president of finance for BitTitan, in a telephone interview about the funding round, which was announced Thursday. Steve Hamerslag, managing partner at TVC Capital, is the investor joining the board. In a statement, Hamerslag said BitTitan was TVC Capital's largest Series A funding to date. Tao Capital Partners of San Francisco also participated in the funding round.

This is the first outside funding BitTitan has taken since former Microsoft engineer Geeman Yip started the company in 2007, and Silver says the company's bootstrap identity and the fact that it is already profitable were major factors in BitTitan's ability to raise money even as the trend among technology investors is for them to fold their wallets shut.

"Being a business that's been around for a while and that has demonstrated that we weren't trying to figure out if we've got a product that works or not was super helpful to us," Silver said.

According to senior BitTitan executives, Yip determined that the opportunity in cloud generally was becoming bigger than BitTitan could continue to address in the organic-growth manner that it had previously operated. That was part of the reason for bringing Silver onboard late last year.

Silver said he's not sure that BitTitan will need future outside investments. "We are raising this money so we can accelerate growth. This may be all the money we ever need to raise," Silver said. "We met with lots of investors who were very interested to write us significantly bigger checks. Realistically, we couldn't deploy $50 or $60 million today. It would be too much to spend relative to our scale too quickly."

The growth of the company to date has been rapid. The company claims revenue increases between 50 percent to 100 percent in each of the last five years. A major push behind BitTitan's relatively new MSPComplete offerings has helped the company double its number of partners in the last year to more than 7,000 MSPs, systems integrators and distributors.

BitTitan, which has also doubled its staff in the last couple of years, will be hiring aggressively with the investment. "We've cashed the check and we are in the process of opening dozens of headcount as we speak," said Rocco Seyboth, vice president of products and marketing for BitTitan. "The two areas we are focusing on and how we're going to deploy the capital is accelerating the product roadmap -- hiring more engineers so we can build out software more quickly -- and the other is international expansion. While we are a global business, and we have sales around the world, we were doing it with a few people scattered around the globe."

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 09, 2016 at 10:18 AM0 comments

AWS Rolls Out Migration Competency

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) delivered a key new element for its channel program this week with the formal rollout of the AWS Migration Competency.

Amazon announced that the migration competency was on the AWS Partner Network (APN) roadmap last October during the AWS Global Partner Summit in Las Vegas. The migration competency is about helping partners move applications or entire datacenter operations to the Amazon cloud.

"There is just a gigantic opportunity for SIs [systems integrators] to help enterprises with migration managed services," said AWS CEO Andy Jassy at the time.

An executive for one of the initial participants in the new competency program, Slalom Consulting, explained its significance in a video posted by AWS on Thursday.

"The new AWS competency for migrations is really important," said Joel Rosenberger, managing director of cloud technologies for Slalom Consulting. "A lot of people come in thinking about AWS, migrating to AWS. But what you find is there's complexity both around the organizational and knowing which technologies to apply when. And so I think having a competency around migration is a really important thing, and it's an assurance both to AWS customers and even ourselves that we are doing the right things by our customers."

In a blog post about the new competency, Kate Miller of the APN explained the point of the AWS Competency Program, which also includes DevOps, Big Data, Security and other competencies.

"Making sure the right AWS Partners are highlighted to customers and making it easy for customers to connect with these partners is the ultimate goal of the AWS Competency Program. Attaining an AWS Competency allows you, as an AWS Partner with specific expertise, to differentiate yourself to customers by showcasing this expertise," Miller wrote.

Amazon released five lists of launch partners who have earned the competency in various specializations:

  • Migration Delivery Partners, who can handle every stage of a migration, include 2nd Watch, Accenture, Classmethod Inc., ClearScale, Cloud Technology Partners, cloudpack, Cloudreach, Cognizant Technology Solutions, CorpInfo, CSC, FPT Software, Infosys, Logicworks, REAN Cloud, Serverworks, Slalom Consulting and Smartronix.

  • Migration Consulting Partners include Apps Associates, Aquilent, Datapipe, Flux7, Pythian and TriNimbus.

  • Partners who offer Migration Technology for Discovery & Planning include Atadata, Cloudamize and RISC Networks.

  • Migration Technology for Workload Mobility Partners are Racemi, CloudEndure and Atadata.

  • Migration Technology for Application Profiling Partners are New Relic, AppDynamics and Dynatrace Ruxit.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 09, 2016 at 12:39 PM0 comments

SolarWinds N-able, LOGICnow Combine To Form SolarWinds MSP

In a deal that combines two of the biggest players in the managed service provider (MSP) tools market, SolarWinds has bought LOGICnow and will combine their product lines into a unit called SolarWinds MSP, the companies said Wednesday.

SolarWinds, an IT management software company that bought its way into the MSP market with the acquisition of N-able Technologies in 2013, positioned the new combination as adding LOGICnow's cloud capabilities and MSP-focused data analytics to SolarWinds' existing remote monitoring and management (RMM) and other MSP-focused technologies.

"SolarWinds is committed to the growing MSP market and has realized great success through the acquisition of N-able, making the acquisition of LOGICnow a natural next step for us," said Kevin B. Thompson, president and CEO of SolarWinds, in a statement.

"SolarWinds MSP, combining the capabilities of LOGICnow and SolarWinds N-able, will offer MSPs a complete set of IT service management solutions via the cloud and on-premises delivery models. SolarWinds MSP gives them everything they need to acquire and retain profitable clients, deliver outstanding levels of service, and maximize their internal efficiency through standardization of their toolsets and the use of automation," Thompson said.

SolarWinds was a public company when it bought N-able. However, the company went private last year when private equity technology investment firms Silver Lake Partners and Thomas Bravo bought SolarWinds for about $4.5 billion in cash. What SolarWinds paid for LOGICnow was not disclosed.

[Editor's Note: The original blog entry posted on Wednesday, June 1, has been updated from here on based on a telephone interview Thursday, June 2, with SolarWinds MSP Managing Director Alistair Forbes.]

According to the companies, SolarWinds MSP will have a huge base of MSP customers worldwide -- 18,000 MSP companies with 200,000 engineers managing more than 5 million end points and 1 million mailboxes. About 5,000 of those MSPs are SolarWinds customers, with the rest coming from LOGICnow.

The companies identified new titles for a few senior LOGICnow executives within the SolarWinds MSP organization. LOGICnow CEO Walter Scott is now executive vice president for SolarWinds MSP, reporting to Thompson. LOGICnow General Manager Alistair Forbes and JP Jauvin, who ran the SolarWinds N-able business, each now hold the title of managing director at SolarWinds MSP, reporting to Scott.

Competitors were already field testing the messaging that they'll be honing in the coming months as they attempt to exploit any uncertainty within the SolarWinds MSP customer base. "Their customers should be concerned about this M&A event not only because of the massive debt that SolarWinds is taking on in order to fund it -- which in itself will require massive cuts in R&D and support to service it -- but the uncertainty around which product will survive when they merge the two product lines," said Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola in a statement e-mailed to reporters shortly after the deal was announced.

In an interview the morning after the acquisition, SolarWinds' Forbes acknowledged that there are overlaps in components of the two companies' MSP tool platforms. However, he made a clear commitment that not only would neither platform be discontinued, but that development would continue on both product lines.

"Both platforms are at the heart of many MSPs. We are acutely aware of the fact that the products that we're providing are used to run their businesses. Any changes are going to be incremental and additive -- taking technology from one platform and adding it into the other platform," Forbes said. "For us to say that we're going to retire one of them would be absolutely contrary to what we're doing here."

Instead, he emphasized new opportunities for both groups of MSPs, such as the ability for an MSP using N-central to offer MAX Backup and Disaster Recovery for customers.

Geographically, the combination gives SolarWinds a much stronger presence in Germany, France and Italy due to LOGICnow's distribution relationships. Looking at the ability to service different-sized MSPs, Forbes said, "We're now the only company in the market that has the ability to go from the smallest MSPs of two to three people to some of the very biggest [telcos]," Forbes said. He said smaller partners will tend to be drawn to the LOGICnow cloud products, while the biggest MSPs use on-premise-based N-central products.

Forbes also pointed to the headcount numbers for the combined unit as a source of reassurance for SolarWinds and LOGICnow partners. About 450 employees from LOGICnow will join the 300 employees of the SolarWinds N-able unit, to create a SolarWinds MSP business that is 750 employees strong. Executives are "still looking at redundancies" in administrative areas, Forbes said, but he didn't expect those to significantly affect the size of the unit. A key takeaway for MSPs, Forbes argued, is that "we have something like 400 engineers in R&D now within the SolarWinds MSP business."

On a similar note, Forbes contends that LOGICnow partners shouldn't be concerned that the SolarWinds MSP effort might get lost in the larger agenda of the IT-focused SolarWinds. SolarWinds MSP is between a third and a quarter of the overall SolarWinds business, he said: "We're a very important part of SolarWinds."

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 01, 2016 at 11:35 AM0 comments

Microsoft Names 2016 Partner of the Year Winners

Microsoft on Tuesday released its Partner of the Year award winners for 2016. Microsoft typically releases the list in May or June and honors the winners on the main stage and in a private event at its annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which will be held this year in Toronto on July 10-14.

Below are the categories, winners and finalists of the global awards, as well as a few country-level Partner of the Year winners.

Alliance Partner of the Year
Winner: Accenture/Avanade

Global Commercial ISV Alliance Partner of the Year
Winner: DataStax

Application Development Partner of the Year
Winner: Wortell
Finalist: Cloudhouse Technologies
Finalist: Resco spol. s r.o.
Finalist: Veeam Software

Cloud Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Partner of the Year
Winner: Sonoma Partners
Finalist: Cloud2020 Ltd.
Finalist: Computer Engineering & Consulting Ltd.
Finalist: PowerObjects, an HCL Company

Cloud Packaged Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: SoftBank Technology
Finalist: Caase.com
Finalist: EDU 365 Group Ltd.
Finalist: GNet Group LLC

Cloud Productivity Partner of the Year
Winner: Atea AS
Finalist: Dedalus
Finalist: SADA Systems Inc.
Finalist: SoftBank Technology

Collaboration and Content Partner of the Year
Winner: Content and Code
Finalist: BrightStarr
Finalist: Kloud
Finalist: Rapid Circle

Communications Partner of the Year
Winner: Modality Systems
Finalist: Accenture/Avanade
Finalist: Nectar Services Corp.
Finalist: Proge-Software

Data Analytics Partner of the Year
Winner: Extend Solutions SA de CV
Finalist: Bismart
Finalist: Neudesic

Data Platform Partner of the Year
Winner: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Finalist: Plain Concepts
Finalist: Rosslyn Analytics
Finalist: ScaleArc

Developer Platform Partner of the Year
Winner: Black Marble
Finalist: Commentor A/S
Finalist: Northwest Cadence
Finalist: Sogeti

Distributor Partner of the Year
Winner: Ingram Micro
Finalist: ALSO Holding AG
Finalist: Ingram Micro Brasil
Finalist: SND Distribuidora de Produtos de Informática

Enterprise Mobility Partner of the Year
Winner: Kloud
Finalist: Onevinn
Finalist: Oxford Computer Group
Finalist: Synergy Advisors LLC

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Partner of the Year
Winner: Columbus
Finalist: K3 Software Solutions
Finalist: mcaConnect LLC
Finalist: UXC Eclipse

Hosting Partner of the Year
Winner: Internet Initiative Japan Inc.
Finalist: Datapipe
Finalist: Extrinsica Global
Finalist: SherWeb

Hybrid Cloud and Infrastructure Platform Partner of the Year
Winner: Ensyst
Finalist: Inframon Ltd.
Finalist: innobit ag
Finalist: Sonata Information Technology Ltd.

Internet of Things (IoT) Partner of the Year
Winner: BlueMetal
Finalist: eBECS
Finalist: JCI
Finalist: MOQdigital

Learning Partner of the Year
Winner: DDLS
Finalist: NetCom Learning
Finalist: QA Ltd.

Messaging Partner of the Year
Winner: SoftBank Technology
Finalist: Dell
Finalist: Quadrasystems.net (India) Private Ltd.
Finalist: QUADROtech

Microsoft Azure Certified ISV Solution Partner of the Year
Winner: Barracuda
Finalist: Esri
Finalist: Veeam Software

Microsoft Dynamics Industry Partner of the Year
Winner: AEC360 Holdings
Finalist: Accenture/Avanade
Finalist: INFOMA Software Consulting GmbH
Finalist: SAGlobal

Modern Marketing Partner of the Year
Winner: PowerObjects, an HCL Company
Finalist: MediaValet
Finalist: Qorus Software
Finalist: RedPixie

OEM Partner of the Year
Winner: Exertis
Finalist: MouseComputer Co. Ltd.

Open Source on Azure Partner of the Year
Winner: OpenSistemas
Finalist: i3 Systems Inc.
Finalist: Link Development
Finalist: Xpirit Nederland BV and GoDataDriven

Partner Seller Partner of the Year
Winner: Rick Slager, Wortell
Finalist: Margaret Totten, IA Cubed
Finalist: Rob Kuehfus, Infront Consulting Group Inc.
Finalist: Takeshi Fujisawa, SoftBank Commerce & Service Corp.

Project and Portfolio Management Partner of the Year
Winner: CPS
Finalist: Campana & Schott
Finalist: Program Framework
Finalist: Projectum

Public Sector: Education Partner of the Year
Winner: 3P Learning Ltd.
Finalist: CoreAzure Ltd.
Finalist: Edsby
Finalist: EDU 365 Group Ltd.

Public Sector: Government Partner of the Year
Winner: SoftBank Technology
Finalist: AvePoint Inc.
Finalist: Caase.com
Finalist: Sparked

Public Sector: Health Partner of the Year
Winner: Innana S.A.S
Finalist: Innofactor
Finalist: Pyramid Analytics
Finalist: Whanau Tahi

Public Sector: Microsoft CityNext Partner of the Year
Finalist: ITWORX Education
Finalist: Tieto
Finalist: Wortell

Public Sector: Public Safety & National Security Partner of the Year
Winner: SMS
Finalist: Accelera Solutions
Finalist: IT Odjel
Finalist: risual

Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions Partner of the Year
Winner: EMIT
Finalist: Be-CLOUD
Finalist: ProServeIT Corp.
Software Asset Management (SAM) Partner of the Year

Software Asset Management (SAM) Partner of the Year
Winner: Software Optimisation Services
Finalist: Business Connexion
Finalist: COMPAREX
Finalist: ITERBI

Technology for Good Partner of the Year
Winner: AvePoint Inc.
Finalist: 3P Learning Ltd.
Finalist: IA Cubed
Finalist: Navantis

Volume Licensing Partner of the Year
Winner: SoftwareONE Mexico
Finalist: CDW
Finalist: SHI International Corp.

Windows and Devices Deployment Partner of the Year
Winner: CDW
Finalist: Caase.com
Finalist: MPGIO Co. Ltd.
Finalist: Wortell

YouthSpark Partner of the Year
Winner: QA Ltd.
Finalist: IA Cubed
Finalist: L3
Finalist: Tribridge

Country Partners of the Year
United States: Catapult Systems
United Kingdom: eBECS
France: Expertime
Germany: VAS Value Added Software GmbH
India: Sonata Information Technology Ltd.
Japan: SoftBank Group
Netherlands: Caase.com
Italy: Insight Technology Solutions
Canada: Infusion
Russia: Softpoint Cluster Technology
Brazil: N1 IT
Australia: MOQdigital
Spain: Plain Concepts
South Africa: Karabina
New Zealand: Datacom Systems Ltd.

The full list of country-level winners is available here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 31, 2016 at 1:23 PM0 comments

PayPal Ending App Support for Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Amazon

Windows Phone is losing a key app, although the platform has company in its misery.

PayPal this week announced that June 30 will mark the end of the availability of its widely used digital payment apps for Windows Phone, Amazon Fire and BlackBerry.

Calling it a "difficult decision," Joanna Lambert, vice president of global consumer product and engineering at PayPal, said in a blog post, "We believe it's the right thing to ensure we are investing our resources in creating the very best experiences for our customers."

PayPal will be concentrating development and support resources on iOS and Android for mobile devices.

Lambert pointed out continuing, non-app options for Windows, BlackBerry and Amazon Fire users. "Windows Phone users can still access PayPal through our mobile Web experience on Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge browsers. Outlook.com users can also use the PayPal add-in to send money directly from their inbox," Lambert said.

Similar mobile Web options exist for BlackBerry and Amazon Fire, and BlackBerry users can continue to use the BBM app to send peer-to-peer payments, Lambert said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 26, 2016 at 10:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft, Facebook Partner on Highest-Capacity Atlantic Subsea Cable

Microsoft and Facebook on Thursday jointly unveiled the highest-capacity subsea cable yet to carry their customers' data across the Atlantic Ocean.

Construction of the cable, called MAREA, is set to begin in August with an expected end date a little over a year later in October 2017. Telxius, a telecommunications infrastructure company owned by Telefonica, will operate the 4,100-mile cable system.

"MAREA will be the highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic -- featuring eight fiber pairs and an initial estimated design capacity of 160Tbps," according to a blog post by Frank Rey, director of Global Network Acquisition for Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations. Designed to be interoperable with a variety of networking equipment, the cable system's throughput should improve along with optical technology advances, Rey said.

[Click on image for larger view.] The MAREA undersea cable, set to be completed next year, will span 4,100 miles between Virginia Beach, Va., and Bilbao, Spain. (Source: Microsoft)

The cable will take a more southerly route than existing U.S.-Europe cables. It will run from Virginia Beach, Va., to Bilbao, in northern Spain. Rey said having the route separate from other cables that primarily land in New York or New Jersey will provide resiliency for U.S. and European customers.

It's the fourth major undersea cable for Microsoft in a little over a year. About this time last year, Microsoft announced investments in two trans-Atlantic cables and a trans-Pacific cable.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 26, 2016 at 11:26 AM0 comments

Study: Office 365 Landing and Expanding in the Enterprise

Microsoft is making huge strides in the enterprise with its "land-and-expand" strategy for Office 365, according to a new study by cloud services security vendor Skyhigh Networks.

Partners have been encountering that land-and-expand, or consumption-based, strategy in recent incentives and other Microsoft campaigns designed to drive additional usage by customers who are already subscribed to Office 365.

A cloud access security broker, Skyhigh regularly uses the data it gathers from 27 million users at 600 enterprises worldwide to report on trends in cloud service usage. In its "Office 365 Adoption & Risk Report," released this month, Skyhigh found a big gain in usage between the third quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016.

The percentage of companies with more than 100 Office 365 users -- a sort of baseline indicator of some level of Office 365 subscription -- barely budged, going from 87.3 percent to 91.4 percent. But the percentage of enterprise users who are active on Office 365 went from 6.8 percent to 22.3 percent, showing that usage within those existing customers more than tripled.

"A key goal for [Microsoft] is driving more Office 365 usage, also referred to as 'consumption,' and their efforts appear to be working," the report states.

Looking at Office 365 app by app, the suite is led by OneDrive, followed by Exchange Online and Skype for Business Online, with SharePoint Online and Yammer bringing up the rear.

Skyhigh goes to some lengths to try to explain why OneDrive leads Exchange Online in both the categories of percentage of companies with 100 or more users (79 percent to 67 percent) and percentage of employees who actively use the app (19 percent to 8 percent).

"It makes sense that OneDrive is deployed at so many organizations because it is included in every Office 365 plan, even the entry level ProPlus plan that primarily gives access to Office applications on the desktop," the report notes of OneDrive.

Of Exchange, the report says: "One way to interpret this data is that enterprises are beginning to migrate to Exchange Online from on-premises versions of Exchange but that -- owing to the scale of these migration projects -- they are migrating in phases."

With independent validation that Microsoft's land-and-expand strategy is bearing fruit, it's probably safe for partners to expect more, not less, of those consumption-oriented drives out of Microsoft.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 25, 2016 at 11:47 AM0 comments

Hosting Survey: With Cloud, Being First Counts Just as Much

Being the first in the door to sign a customer is proving to be as important in the cloud as it is anywhere else in business.

"Despite the inherent flexibility of the cloud model, we're seeing very high vendor loyalty rates," said Aziz Benmalek, vice president of Worldwide Cloud and Hosting Services Providers for Microsoft.

Microsoft this month released a survey, designed and conducted on its behalf by 451 Research, of 1,700 IT decision makers worldwide. The survey, "The Digital Revolution, Powered by Cloud" (available here), came out in conjunction with the Microsoft Cloud and Hosting Summit last week.

Benmalek spoke to RCP about the survey and also blogged about it. Supporting his comment about vendor loyalty were three stats:

  • Ninety-five percent of respondents intend to renew their contract with their primary cloud and hosting provider.

  • More than 80 percent of customers have an annual or longer-term contract with their primary cloud and hosting provider.

  • Forty-three percent have a contract of two years or longer with their provider.

Asked how providers were earning that loyalty, Benmalek suggested that range was important. "The breadth of the solution, as well as the breadth of the experience that's going in the cloud space [is important]," he said. "Having that ability to extend from the breadth of offerings, as well as the breadth of services."

Indeed, while the survey suggests customers are loyal and existing providers have clear advantages for now, the market is by no means locked down, nor is spending even close to reaching its potential.

As one example, customers reporting that they are beyond the "discovery phase" on cloud is 85 percent. But those reporting that they have reached "broad implementation"? Only 15 percent.

Says Benmalek: "These findings underscore the opportunity for service providers to drive organic business growth by nurturing long-term relationships."

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 19, 2016 at 11:38 AM0 comments

Microsoft Unloads Feature Phone Business

The unwinding of the blockbuster Nokia deal entered a new phase Wednesday as Microsoft sold its feature phone unit for $350 million to a subsidiary of Hon/Hai Foxconn Technology Group and a newly formed close partner of Nokia Corp. called HMD Global Oy.

The feature phone business was never a strategic play for Microsoft, which bought Nokia's phone business mainly for the Lumia smartphone line as part of a plan to drive adoption of Windows Phone.

Championed by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the Lumia-Windows Phone combo never gained market traction and Microsoft ended up taking a $7.6 billion charge last July against the value of the assets it acquired when the deal closed in April 2014. Microsoft also took a restructuring charge of $750 million to $850 million and announced layoffs at the time for 7,800 employees.

Now Microsoft is selling its entry-level feature phone assets to FIH Mobile Ltd., the Foxconn subsidiary, and HMD. FIH will get Microsoft's Hanoi, Vietnam, manufacturing facility, and 4,500 employees will "have the opportunity to join" FIH or HMD, according to Microsoft's brief statement about the deal.

The sale coincides with a major Nokia announcement about a strategic return to the Nokia-branded mobile phone and tablet business. Under the deal, Nokia will grant HMD "an exclusive global license to create Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets for the next ten years." HMD will pay royalties to Nokia for sales of those Nokia-branded mobile products. As part of that deal, Nokia said, "HMD has conditionally agreed to acquire from Microsoft the rights to use the Nokia brand on feature phones, and certain related design rights."

The CEO of HMD will be Arto Nummela, a former Nokia executive who is currently the head of Microsoft's Mobile Devices business for Greater Asia, Middle East and Africa, and of Microsoft's global Feature Phone business.

Getting out of the feature phone business doesn't tell us anything about Microsoft's intentions or core business. It's almost surprising that these business lines and facilities weren't part of the earlier cutbacks. A feature phone business has little to do with Windows or Microsoft's strategic plans.

Meanwhile, Microsoft did little in its brief statement to quell rumors that the days of new Lumia-branded smartphones running Windows may be over. In spite of Microsoft Windows and Devices Group chief Terry Myerson's leaked e-mail last month about the ongoing commitment to Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft did not promise new Lumia devices in its statement Wednesday.

"Microsoft will continue to develop Windows 10 Mobile and support Lumia phones such as the Lumia 650, Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, and phones from OEM partners like Acer, Alcatel, HP, Trinity and VAIO," the company said in its statement.

That word "support" could be telling, as rumors of a pivot to a Surface Phone brand have been making the rounds for the last few months. It's also unclear how many people and assets are left on the Lumia design and engineering side after all the post-acquisition layoffs.

While the feature phone business sale is consistent strategically, the Lumia statement -- like the previous three or four public statements by Microsoft on the subject -- sheds very little light on what Microsoft is planning in mobile hardware.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 18, 2016 at 11:36 AM0 comments

BitTitan Focuses on Upsell Capabilities for Microsoft Partners

BitTitan took another step this month in its ongoing effort to expand its cloud migration tools into a platform that Microsoft partners can run their businesses on.

Previous milestones in the effort included the launch of the MSPComplete and CSPComplete packages in October. Those bundles packaged BitTitan's existing tools in an "onboard" pillar and added a "sell" pillar and a "service" pillar.

While BitTitan's sell pillar included machine learning-generated leads and sales scripts, an equally or more important part of the sales process was in the service pillar. Part of that pillar was a "HealthCheck" tool that highlighted upsell and cross-sell opportunities for partners at their existing customer sites. This month, BitTitan released a greatly expanded version of that feature called the Upsell Engine as part of MSPComplete.

"The Upsell Engine might even be the most important thing we do," said Rocco Seyboth, general manager of products for BitTitan, in a telephone interview. "The way that a partner is going to maximize customer lifetime value is not just growing one or two services that they broke into the customer with; they're going to do it by upselling additional services they can make money from."

Previously, the opportunities that the HealthCheck tool discovered were surfaced in the HealthCheck tool itself. Now the Upsell Engine is part of the MSPComplete dashboard, and it is drawing from a wider array of information sources and providing a broader set of suggested upsell/cross-sell opportunities, along with tools to pursue them, Seyboth said.

Upsell packages within the toolset include migrating Box, Dropbox and Google Drive to OneDrive, Salesforce to Dynamics CRM Online, SQL Server 2005 to Azure SQL, and Amazon AWS Blob to Azure Blob.

One other benefit of the tool for partners is BitTitan's close working relationship with Microsoft. A Platinum Sponsor at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this July, BitTitan is tailoring much of the Upsell Engine to take advantage of Microsoft's constantly changing incentives.

For example, Seyboth discussed why the online file storage alerts are a priority for BitTitan's tool at the moment: "We know that a lot of Microsoft partners right now are trying to figure out ways to sell more OneDrive. For FastTrack funds, you need a second workload that will drive active usage. If you can get a customer to get their documents into OneDrive, finding opportunities in the Upsell Engine to recommend and drive OneDrive sales is a big priority. There's quite a lot of alerts related to OneDrive."

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 12, 2016 at 10:40 AM0 comments

Microsoft Partner Exec Shuffle: Sorgen Goes to EPG, Schuster Interim Channel Chief

Microsoft is moving some senior partner executives around as it comes into the home stretch of its fiscal year, which ends next month.

After a nearly three-year stint as corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, Phil Sorgen will become corporate vice president of the U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group (EPG), a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail Tuesday.

"Gavriella Schuster will step in as interim vice president of Worldwide Partner Group until the permanent replacement is hired. Microsoft is committed to the Worldwide Partner Group and its vast partner ecosystem," the spokesperson said. Sorgen hired Schuster, a 20-year veteran at Microsoft, as general manager of Worldwide Partner Programs in May 2014.

Sorgen is now the corporate vice president of the U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group, a role previously held by Ron Markezich, a former Microsoft CIO and the corporate vice president for Microsoft Online during the seminal 2007-2011 period when Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS)/Office 365 was getting off the ground.

L to R: Phil Sorgen, Gavriella Schuster and Ron Markezich.

"Ron took a new role in Office Marketing a few months ago. He leads Office Services Marketing, and is responsible for core product marketing for Exchange & Outlook, Yammer, SharePoint & OneDrive, Skype & Skype for Business, and shared Office 365 services," the spokesperson said.

Markezich, who has been in the U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group role since 2011, describes the job this way in his LinkedIn bio:

Corporate vice president of Microsoft's U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group, serving the 1,500 largest commercial customers in the US with Microsoft's full suite of enterprise offerings, cloud services and cool Microsoft hardware. Responsible for leading U.S. enterprise sales and marketing, including national and field sales, partners, marketing, operations and vertical industry teams. Ron is responsible for $8.5B of annual revenue growing at >10% per year.

Sorgen's appointment marks a return to EPG for him. From 2003 to 2005, he was general manager of EPG National Sales, according to his LinkedIn profile. After those roles he was president of Microsoft Canada, then corporate vice president for the U.S. Small and Mid-Market Solutions Group.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 11, 2016 at 10:36 AM0 comments