Top Dog(fooder): Nadella Details His Daily Use of Microsoft 365

There used to be a regular saying that Microsoft's IT department was the company's first, best customer.

The idea was the department was always at the ready to dogfood technical previews and beta versions of Microsoft's enterprise software and services. Using the software to run a 100,000-person company with nearly $100 billion in revenues and global-scale operations is a great way to kick the tires and prove the scalability of new software.

When it comes to the company's flagship productivity software and services, there's a similar idea -- how does the CEO of Microsoft use Office, Windows and other tools to get more done every day? It was a source of fascination for customers and partners in Bill Gates' day and in Steve Ballmer's day. Now the company's third CEO is sharing his tips and tricks.

Editor's Note: Microsoft has prohibited press and analysts from attending Inspire this year, marking the first time since 2005 that RCP won't have a presence at Microsoft's annual partner conference. If you see or hear something newsworthy at the show, shoot us a tip at [email protected].

During his Microsoft Inspire keynote on Wednesday, Satya Nadella shared some details about how the company's highest-profile internal user personally leverages Microsoft 365 in his daily work.

As such demos are effectively an advertisement for Microsoft's latest-generation products, Nadella first sought to create some device envy among the thousands of Microsoft partners and employees in attendance. "I have a Surface Studio at work and at home. In fact, Surface Go has really been a game changer for me. I have this early access Panos [Panay] gave me over LTE, it's just awesome," Nadella said. While pre-orders are currently being taken for the first models of the Surface Go, which is a smaller and lighter version of the Surface 2-in-1, they aren't shipping until Aug. 2. But for the LTE version that Nadella says he is using, a release timeframe hasn't been discussed yet.

Most of Nadella's demos involved an Android phone, an iPhone and a Surface as a computer. About both phones, Nadella joked that to him they were just "Microsoft 365 endpoints." To support that idea, he showed how the screens for both the Android device and the iPhone were filled with icons for Microsoft apps.

To the common question of whether customers should use Teams or Yammer, Nadella's workflow provided an interesting answer: both.

"What I want to start with is my communications diet," Nadella explained. "I use three things throughout the day. I use Outlook as my open loop. This is my ability to communicate with any one of you, or anyone inside the company. Microsoft Teams, that's my inner loop. That's how I stay in touch with the groups, as well as the projects that I'm closely working on and closely working with. Then Yammer, that's my [outer] loop. That is my ability to make sure I'm in touch with [what] the 100,000 [Microsoft employees] are really buzzing about."

While using the Android phone, Nadella gave a hard sell for Microsoft's Outlook app. "By the way, if there's one thing I will ask all of you to do, it's download Outlook, it will change your life. It's super helpful in your ability to stay productive," said Nadella, adding later, "Outlook is the best Gmail client. If you don't trust me, check it out."

He showed how he uses the Outlook app ability to triage e-mail with flags, relies on Focused Inbox heavily, and uses new "do not disturb" functionality for events like Inspire. "The other thing that we just added recently is do not disturb. Especially when you're at an event like this, and you're getting all these e-mail notifications that are trying to attract your attention, you can make sure that you're not distracted," he said. He also showed how he uses Outlook as a universal client for his e-mail, his Office 365 e-mail and his Gmail.

Aside from using Outlook, Teams and Yammer to monitor his three "loops" throughout the day, Nadella called out his own use of LinkedIn, Cortana, To Do, Bing, Edge and Stream.

He presented LinkedIn as almost a fourth information loop, where he goes regularly to get industry-specific news and updates from his professional contacts. For Cortana, he highlighted Cortana Commitments, calling it a feature that "saves me" every day. "I send mails to somebody saying I'll follow up tomorrow. And then, of course, I forget to put it in To Do. But the one thing that Cortana does is it remembers."

While Bing and Edge are likeliest to get eyerolls, Nadella brought up interesting use cases for both Microsoft's Google-lagging search engine and its also-ran browser. In a better-together scenario, Nadella showed the power of being logged into Azure Active Directory with Bing's new indexing capability. Nadella conducted a Bing search for Microsoft channel chief Gavriella Schuster, and Bing displayed her internal corporate profile and presented a Microsoft campus map with a pin in Schuster's office on a floor plan of her building. With Edge, meanwhile, he demonstrated the ability to view a news article on his phone and then move that page to display on his Surface device.

Use of Power BI represents an organizational shift at Microsoft that affects individual users' daily work. "If there's one tool that's changed the culture inside the company, perhaps Power BI is the one I'll point to. Because one of the things that we're trying to do is, how do we move away from all these lagging indicators of success but fall in love with leading indicators of success, like usage or consumption or satisfaction?" Nadella said in demonstrating the app's graphical displays.

Finally, Nadella demonstrated Microsoft's Stream technology as one of his tools for quickly reviewing company video events for points of interest. On stage at Inspire, Nadella used Schuster's Tuesday keynote, which had been transcribed and timecoded in a searchable section next to the video display.

After describing his daily use of Microsoft 365, Nadella challenged partner and Microsoft field sales employee attendees to take the bundle to the market: "The opportunity for everyone here is to take Microsoft 365 and apply it for cultural transformation in large enterprises; for productivity in small businesses; to be able to really do industry-specific workflows in health care, in manufacturing, in financial services; to be able to take it to firstline workers; [and] to extend it to business processes with Dynamics 365."

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 18, 2018 at 9:07 AM0 comments

Microsoft Inspire: Explaining That $4.5 Trillion Opportunity

Ever since last July, Microsoft has been bandying about the number $4.5 trillion.

Microsoft got that sky-high figure from analysts at IDC. Supposedly it's the size of the digital transformation market opportunity by 2023.

Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster touted the figure at Microsoft Inspire, a year ago in Washington, D.C., and it's been a staple of Microsoft partner presentations since.

Editor's Note: Microsoft has prohibited press and analysts from attending Inspire this year, marking the first time since 2005 that RCP won't have a presence at Microsoft's annual partner conference. If you see or hear something newsworthy at the show, shoot us a tip at [email protected].

Kicking off Inspire 2018 on Monday in Las Vegas, Schuster trotted the number out again, but basically admitted that she wasn't originally totally sold on a figure that would represent more than 5 percent of global GDP.

Of course, to be able to acknowledge earlier doubts, she now has to say she is sold on the math. So in the course of repeating the $4.5 trillion stat on Monday, Schuster said, "A few weeks ago, I started to do a little math, and I realized that maybe this number was not quite as crazy as it sounded to me last year."

The first part of Schuster's math involves Wall Street estimates that Microsoft revenues will hit $100 billion for fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30 and will be formally reported on Thursday. Schuster made a point of clarifying that her estimate did not represent advance intel from Microsoft CFO Amy Hood. It doesn't take a data scientist to say $100 billion would be in the ballpark for FY 2018 revenues; Microsoft reached north of $90 billion in the previous fiscal year. Low double-digit growth would easily clear $100 billion this time.

The next part of Schuster's math involves another IDC figure -- that for every $1 of Microsoft revenue, partners rake in $9.64 in services revenue.

"So if you just do that simple math, that's $9.64 times $100 billion is nearly a trillion dollars just this past fiscal year of Microsoft services," Schuster said. "You add to that a predicted continued double-digit growth in cloud this coming year, and the fact that we're not just attaching to 1 or 2 billion PCs around the world but to over 10 billion IoT devices and climbing, and that makes the $4.5 trillion of total addressable market in five years feel addressable."

In general, it was a relatively slow first day for Inspire when it came to news. The company made a score of Inspire-related partner and news announcements last week in advance of the conference. Those included the Azure Expert Managed Service Provider program, new competency-related advanced specializations, expanded core benefits for partners, new business development materials, as well as several Azure and Microsoft 365 announcements. See our Inspire preview for details.

Schuster is scheduled to return to the main stage on Tuesday morning with a keynote about the company's plans for partners, and she will be followed by executives detailing Azure, Microsoft 365 and business application opportunities. CEO Satya Nadella will take the stage on Wednesday to give the keynote that closes the partner conference and opens Microsoft's co-located internal sales conference.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 16, 2018 at 11:45 AM0 comments

Inspire Preview: Microsoft To Focus on Partners, Azure and Microsoft 365

Microsoft on Thursday made dozens of product and partnering announcements in advance of the Microsoft Inspire 2018 partner conference that kicks off on Sunday.

The pre-conference unveilings in blog posts and media briefings covered partner programs, Azure and Microsoft 365.

Editor's Note: Microsoft has prohibited press and analysts from attending Inspire this year, marking the first time since 2005 that RCP won't have a presence at Microsoft's annual partner conference. If you see or hear something newsworthy at the show, shoot us a tip at [email protected].

The announcements from Thursday should form a rough outline of the topics and themes Microsoft that will focus on during the conference in Las Vegas and the co-located Ready conference for Microsoft's internal sales teams. However, it's likely that Microsoft is holding a few major revelations back for keynote speakers throughout the week, including Executive Vice President of the Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff and President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith on Monday, channel chief Gavriella Schuster on Tuesday, and CEO Satya Nadella on Wednesday.

Partner Programs and Tools
Partners can look forward to several major tweaks to the way they interact with Microsoft, although none appear overwhelmingly sweeping. Microsoft's main engagement model with partners will continue to be the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, which Schuster called Microsoft's "lead sales motion" for partners in a media call. Revenue growth for the CSP program is 234 percent year over year, Microsoft declared in a momentum slide. Another slide boasted that Microsoft has 72,000 cloud partners worldwide.

Expect a continued emphasis next week and a continued focus throughout Microsoft's fiscal 2019, which started at the beginning of this month, on co-selling. Microsoft made a big deal at the Inspire conference last year of launching its co-selling programs, which provide for Microsoft field sellers to represent partners' Azure solutions and get compensation from Microsoft based on those sales to spark Azure consumption. "This was the first year that we allowed Microsoft sellers to retire their quota through partner solution sales," Schuster said. The result was $5 billion in sales of partner solutions through the fiscal year. "We're going to continue to invest in selling together in many more ways," Schuster said.

While the broad outlines of the aging, competency-based Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) appear to be in place for the coming year, the tweaks involve a new program for managed service providers around Azure, some advanced specializations and some competency benefits changes.

The MSP program is called the Azure Expert Managed Service Provider program. "These expert partners have proven real world proficiency and skills, for datacenter lift-and-shift, born-in-cloud new applications, and everything in-between," wrote Corey Sanders, corporate vice president of Azure, in a blog post about the new program.

Sanders detailed the requirements for MSPs to join and remain in the program. "Azure Expert MSPs complete a rigorous audit by an independent third party, and also provide multiple customer references of Azure managed services projects delivered over the last 12 months. Furthermore, to retain the badge, these expert partners need to continue to meet pre-requisites annually and complete a progress audit every year," Sanders wrote in the customer-focused blog post.

The exclusive program started as a pilot last year, said Schuster during the media call, adding that partner participants experienced a similar pattern at customer sites. "During our pilot, the data showed that customers...start small...and then they grow really fast. They basically start and say, 'Is this going to work?' and then they turn over their whole infrastructure."

Schuster also briefly outlined, without providing much more detail, a new program of advanced specializations, apparently within competencies. In the current MPN, partners earn gold or silver competencies in a generally horizontal solution area -- such as Cloud Productivity or Enterprise Resource Planning. Microsoft has been paring down the number of competencies, and there are currently 19 displayed on Microsoft's Web page. However, the specializations could mean Microsoft is about to start expanding the labels it places on partners again. "It's a way for customers to discover just the partners with the right capabilities," Schuster said in her presentation.

Schuster also said competency partners should stay tuned for changes to benefits. "Starting later this year, partners with competencies will have a choice of benefits packages based on their business focus. We're expanding core benefits to include access to services that support generating leads, improving lead velocity and increasing close rates for app or service offerings," she wrote in a blog post.

Microsoft will also use Inspire to roll out a number of tools for partners in the form of profitability guidance, playbooks and digital transformation e-books.

Azure and Microsoft 365
As one of Microsoft's signature conferences with a worldwide audience, Microsoft always uses Inspire to highlight some product news. Many of the biggest announcements involve the flagship Azure cloud platform, and will be featured on Tuesday. Also likely to be featured in the Tuesday keynote lineup are a series of announcements involving Microsoft 365, which is Microsoft's term for the technology bundle that includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise + Mobility Security (EMS).

For Azure, Microsoft is rolling out several significant previews. One is Azure Data Box Disk for moving data into Azure. Building on the Azure Data Box appliance for data migrations, the Data Box Disk is an SSD-disk based option for migrating up to 35TB for either one-time or recurring migrations. Meanwhile, availability of the original Azure Data Box is being expanded to a preview version in Europe and the United Kingdom.

New Azure services entering preview include Azure Virtual WAN and Azure Firewall. The Virtual WAN networking service provides optimized and automated branch-to-branch connectivity, and provides mechanisms to connect on-premises routers and SD-WAN systems, according to a blog post by Jason Zander, executive vice president of Microsoft Azure. As for the firewall, Zander described it as, "a fully stateful firewall as a service with built-in high availability and unrestricted cloud scalability."

A full general availability release on Thursday was a next-generation version of Azure SQL Data Warehouse with doubled query performance, optimizations for data movement and the ability to support up to 128 concurrent queries. On the Power BI front, the data-related cloud service received several enhancements to make it more practical for business analysts to work with Big Data. For customers with on-premises versions of Windows Server and SQL Server 2008/2008 R2, Microsoft unveiled an offer that would allow them to migrate those workloads to Azure and get critical security updates for them past the end-of-support deadline at no charge.

Under the Microsoft 365 umbrella, Microsoft announced several end user-focused enhancements around Inspire. First among those is a free version of Microsoft Teams that is remarkably robust and available immediately in 40 languages. Features in the free version include support for up to 300 people, unlimited chat messages, search, built-in audio and video calling for individuals and groups, 10GB of team file storage, an additional 2GB per person of personal storage, and real-time content creation integration with Office Online apps.

In an e-mail, Dux Raymond Sy, CMO of AvePoint, a major Microsoft SharePoint ISV partner, called the announcement a big blow for Microsoft against Slack. "With this new freemium model, it's hard to see how smaller organizations would choose Slack for their chat-based collaboration over the superior integration and security features that Microsoft Teams provides," he said.

Another major new capability within Microsoft 365 is intelligent events. Calling them artificial intelligence-powered, Microsoft said the event infrastructure is designed to allow anyone in an organization to create live and on-demand events. Enhancements to the event experience include a speaker timeline using facial detection to identify speakers, speech-to-text transcription with timecoding and closed captions.

In an effort to help organizations enforce work-life balance, Microsoft announced features called Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics nudges. Using Office 365 data, Workplace Analytics identifies collaboration patterns that impact productivity, workforce effectiveness and employee engagement, according to Microsoft. The nudges, meanwhile, are aimed at encouraging employees to reduce after-hours impacts on co-workers, preserving blocks of "focus time" in employees' schedules and running more effective meetings. MyAnalytics nudges will start to appear in Outlook starting this summer.

One product that hit general availability on Thursday is the Microsoft Whiteboard app for Windows 10, which Microsoft describes as a "freeform, intelligent canvas for real-time ideation, creation and collaboration." The app was previewed in December, and more previews will be on the way for iOS and Web versions of Whiteboard.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 12, 2018 at 9:09 AM0 comments

Microsoft Aims 'Surface Go' Tablet at Entry-Level Market

Microsoft this week took the wraps off the latest entry to its Surface PC lineup: the Surface Go.

Shipping on Aug. 2 in several markets, including the United States, the Surface Go is a slightly smaller and slightly less expensive Surface model that aims to be good for entertainment and educational use, but still fully capable of tackling most work tasks either on the road or at home.

Panos Panay introduced the Surface Go in a blog post Monday night. "Starting at $399 MSRP, it represents a new entry point for the Surface family, while keeping the premium qualities that have come to define it," Panay said. "Being able to run Office apps on this device with its portability is one of the things that was critical to the experience we had in mind when we designed Surface Go -- the productivity of having the apps you use for work and school with the flexibility to relax and read or watch a show on Netflix or Hulu."

The latest device offering from Redmond has a 10-inch screen, weighs 1.15 pounds, is a third of an inch wide and runs a 7th Generation Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y. The unit ships with Windows 10 S and a 30-day home trial of Office 365 Home.

The Surface Go (source: Microsoft).

Headlining the included ports is a USB-C jack, an interface that Microsoft only recently made available for some other Surface products via a dongle. The Surface Go also includes a Surface Connect port, a Surface Type Cover port, a headphone jack and a microSDXC card reader. The system has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in, as well.

Surface Go comes in two versions. The $399 version has 64GB of eMMC storage and 4GB of RAM. A $549 system has 128GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM. Both ship on Aug. 2 in the United States, and pre-orders are also available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Next on the list for pre-orders over the coming weeks are Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China. Other markets will follow later, the company says.

While the base price is relatively low, many of the most important aspects of the Surface Go experience require accessories. A Surface Go Signature Type Cover, like other Surface Type Covers, provides a connected hardware keyboard and folds up to an ergonomic angle. Available in burgundy, platinum, cobalt blue or black, the Surface Go Signature Type Cover costs $99.99. A Surface Pen is already available in the same four colors and also costs $99.99.

Microsoft also unveiled a Surface Mobile Mouse for $34.99 in burgundy, platinum or cobalt blue. The new type cover and mobile mouse both start shipping Aug. 2. Another accessory, the Surface Dial, is also supported by the Surface Go, but less essential for most Surface use cases.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 11, 2018 at 9:29 AM0 comments

Microsoft Recognizes U.S. Partners with Awards in Dozens of Categories

Microsoft on Friday honored 39 partner companies with an inaugural set of MSUS Partner Awards.

"Designed to supplement the Microsoft Partner of the Year program, both award programs use the same nominations and nomination tool; however, the MSUS Partner Award program focuses on US-specific partner impact," according to a blog posted by the Microsoft U.S. Partner Team listing the winners.

The U.S. awards come a few weeks after the release of the annual worldwide Partner of the Year winners list and precede the Microsoft Inspire 2018 conference for partners next month.

As with the worldwide awards, Microsoft is using the U.S. awards to recognize partners who are contributing to the four new business areas that emerged as part of the massive Worldwide Commercial Business reorganization last summer. Those include Modern Workplace, Business Applications, Applications & Infrastructure, and Data & Artificial Intelligence. Each of those business areas has between four and six award categories.

Microsoft also handed out awards for the six vertical industries that, as part of that reorg, were supposed to be strategic: manufacturing, financial services, retail, health, education and government. Additionally, there is a U.S. partner vertical industry award for communications and media.

Other categories recognize partners who made contributions around strategic-for-Microsoft initiatives, including Azure, the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, co-sell initiatives and the Partner Seller, or P-Seller, program.

The list also names the finalists for Microsoft U.S. Partner of the Year. Icertis was announced as the U.S. Partner of the Year in early June along with all the other country winners, but the new list reveals that Quisitive and 10th Magnitude were finalists for the award.

Here are the 2018 MSUS Partner Award winners:

Apps & Infrastructure Business Apps Data & AI Industry Modern Workplace Other Additional MSUS Awards

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 29, 2018 at 2:45 PM0 comments

Twilio Launches Partner Program for its Communications Platform

Looking to kick start a next stage of growth after 10 years, communications specialist Twilio is making a major investment in the channel.

The San Francisco area company aims to virtualize telecommunications infrastructure by offering APIs that allow developers to create communications solutions that leverage voice, text, chat and video. In its first decade, the company was all about developers, and boasts that 2 million of them have used the Twilio platform.

In February, Twilio hired Ron Huddleston as chief partners officer to lead a channel effort, and on Wednesday Huddleston introduced Twilio Build, the company's new channel program.

"It's our first partner program built from the ground up for a developer-first, API-first world. What we're announcing are all of the foundational things that any kind of partner, consulting or technology, needs to build a healthy businesses using Twilio," said Huddleston, a veteran of senior channel roles at Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle.

Those foundational elements include a two-tiered program of Registered and Gold partners, support for new business models, a certification program, a marketplace and a technology early access program with exclusive product roadmap information.

The business models may be the biggest change for Twilio. The company has traditionally worked closely with ISVs, who built intellectual property on top of Twilio's platform for end customers. Twilio will continue to work with ISVs, which it now calls technology partners, and Build makes moves to address the distinct requirements of ISVs, as opposed to end customers with their own development teams.

But Twilio is also adding resources, go-to-market materials, training, a platform and personnel to support other business models. One is resell, a model which didn't exist previously for Twilio, and another is an influence business model.

With the launch of the Twilio Build Marketplace, the company is providing a digital showcase of Twilio-based applications and add-ons that mark the start of a co-sell approach for Twilio with partners. The marketplace also includes a directory of consulting partners, and those consulting partners can achieve certifications and the Gold level through digital training, in-person training and other requirements.

Huddleston declined to share the timeframe and percent-of-revenues goals as Twilio moves from an all-direct to a mixed direct-indirect model. He did say that the company has about 100 partners certified already and is aiming to double or triple that number by the Twilio SIGNAL event in San Francisco this October.

The company is initially aiming to develop a roster of systems integrators in the communications, healthcare and financial services sector, and later will emphasize other areas. Eventually, Huddleston sees a new go-to-market approach for Twilio.

"I really do expect every Twilio customer to work with a partner at some point in the future," he said. Huddleston, a veteran of the fast shift to the cloud from his days at Salesforce, sees a lot of work coming for Twilio partners. "It really is an exciting space for partners to begin looking at because I see communications moving three or four times faster [than the move to the cloud]."

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 27, 2018 at 12:42 PM0 comments

Microsoft Readying $80 USB-C Dongle for Surface

Microsoft's long-promised USB-C dongle for its Surface laptop is reportedly coming this week.

In an interview with The Verge over a year ago, Microsoft's Surface chief Panos Panay said that a dongle was in the works. The Verge is now reporting that a rather large dongle to connect USB-C devices will be available starting on Friday.

According to the report, the dongle will cost $79.99, will be available for commercial customers and will plug into the Surface Connect port.

The Friday timeframe seems on track. A day after The Verge released its report, ZDNet and Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley spotted a new reference to a "Surface Connect to USB-C Adapter" on Microsoft's Surface Web site.

Last year, Panay said he believed in USB-C, but that the right approach would be a dongle, since he didn't think it was the right move yet to replace any of the devices' limited number of other ports and connectors.

The Surface Book 2 already includes a USB-C port, along with two USB 3.0 Type A ports, a UHS-II SDXC card reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack and two Surface Connect ports.

The dongle will work with the first-generation Surface Book and with the Surface Pro. Surface Pro connections include USB 3.0, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSDXC card reader, Mini DisplayPort, Cover port and Surface Connect port. The first Surface Book has two USB 3.0 Type A ports, a headphone jack, a card reader, a Mini DisplayPort and two Surface Connect ports.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 26, 2018 at 12:42 PM0 comments

Microsoft Unveils Inspire Keynote Lineup

As part of the lead-up to the Microsoft Inspire partner conference next month, Microsoft revealed the lineup of keynote speakers and dropped hints about some of the big themes of the conference.

Inspire 2018 is being held in Las Vegas from July 15-19. For the first time, the worldwide partner conference is being co-located with the Microsoft Ready internal sales conference. Microsoft executives say the combined event is bringing 40,000 attendees to Las Vegas.

Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president for Microsoft One Commercial Partner, wrote in a blog post that the Inspire keynotes will be dubbed Corenotes for 2018, and will occur on Monday, July 16; Tuesday, July 17; and Wednesday, July 18, at the T-Mobile Arena. In some years, the keynotes have been held only on Monday and Wednesday of the show, with Tuesday morning left open for partner meetings.

In another change, CEO Satya Nadella will give a closing speech on Wednesday, rather than the traditional conference-opening speech on a Monday morning. The reason for the change is to allow Nadella's message to reach both the partners, whose conference will be wrapping up on Wednesday, and the internal sales audience, whose event will just be getting started.

This year, the Monday Microsoft executive lineup will start with Schuster's partner welcome, followed by Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Worldwide Commercial Business; and Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer.

For Tuesday, look for a session on Azure, the hybrid cloud opportunity and the expanding role of artificial intelligence led by Jason Zander, executive vice president of the Microsoft Azure team in the cloud and AI Group.

That session will be followed by industry-focused sessions featuring Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president of Business Applications and Global Industry, and Anand Eswaran, corporate vice president of Microsoft Digital. Schuster will close the general session on Tuesday with partner details.

Other senior executives scheduled to appear during the week's main stage Corenotes are Julia White, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Cloud Platform; Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365 Marketing; and Yusef Medhi, corporate vice president of the Windows and Devices Group.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 25, 2018 at 10:29 AM0 comments

Intel CEO Krzanich Steps Down

An investigation into a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee has led to the ouster of Brian Krzanich as CEO of Intel after more than three decades with the chipmaker.

Intel announced Thursday morning that Krzanich, 58, was resigning his post and his seat on the Intel board. Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan was named interim CEO effective immediately, and Intel has begun a search for a permanent CEO.

According to a company statement, "Intel was recently informed that Mr. Krzanich had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee. An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel's non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel's values and adhere to the company's code of conduct, the board has accepted Mr. Krzanich's resignation."

Krzanich has been CEO at Intel for five years, and started at Intel as a process engineer in 1982. Swan has been CFO at Intel since 2016, and held similar roles previously at eBay Inc., Electronic Data Systems Corp. and TRW Inc.

The bombshell comes just five days before Intel's second-quarter earnings call. Intel had a rough start to the year with disclosure of the Spectre/Meltdown security issues, related class-action lawsuits and questions about a Krzanich stock sale before the security flaws were made public.

Yet the company had a strong Q1 and Intel as a company is bullish about the just-ended quarter. Alongside the statement about the resignation, Intel raised its guidance for Q2. Intel now expects adjusted earnings of $0.99 per share on $16.9 billion in revenue, up from a previous forecast of 85 cents a share on $16.3 billion in revenue.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 21, 2018 at 12:43 PM0 comments

Acumatica Lands $25 Million Round To Fund Cloud ERP Expansion Plans

Acumatica, the Bellevue, Wash.-based company run by former Microsoft channel chief Jon Roskill, on Monday announced a $25 million funding round that Roskill believes will accelerate Acumatica's cloud ERP business.

Leading the Series C preferred round is Accel-KKR, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based technology-focused investment firm with $4.3 billion in capital commitments. AKKR is joined in the round by existing investors.

"For Acumatica, what this means is that we're now bringing a true Grade A, growth equity firm into the Acumatica fold. They're going to take a board seat as part of this," said Roskill, CEO of Acumatica since 2014, in an interview. "One of the things that's exciting for us about this is that AKKR doesn't just bring money to the table, but they've got significant resources that we can leverage, as well, whether it's around strategy and planning; recruiting and HR; and, in particular, expansion-oriented resources."

Acumatica's sweet spot is ERP customers with revenues between about $10 million and $500 million looking to move to the cloud. Roskill said that according to analysts at Gartner and IDC, only 18 to 20 percent of companies in that segment have moved to the cloud, but most of them are ready to go to the cloud very soon.

Given Acumatica's 100 percent channel focus, the investments the company has planned will all affect Acumatica's 350 North American partners, as well as potentially affect Microsoft partners looking for a cloud ERP solution, Roskill said. "It's all going to go into building better products, accelerating product development and accelerating go to market," Roskill said.

Expect to see more focus on verticals, where Acumatica over the last 18 months has rolled out editions focused on field service, commerce, manufacturing and construction. "[With] this money, we're going to accelerate our efforts into some of these verticals, and I think you can expect to see us go after a couple others over the coming years," Roskill said.

A strong Microsoft partner itself, Acumatica runs on a Microsoft infrastructure stack and has integrations and add-ins with Office 365, Power BI and LinkedIn. Yet that relationship doesn't stop Acumatica from going after Microsoft Dynamics partners.

Customers are going to the cloud "with or without you," Roskill said. "You've got to get the skills, and you've got to get the product, and Acumatica is certainly here to help those that are interested," said Roskill after arguing that the Acumatica code base is substantially more modern than what Microsoft has put in the cloud so far on the ERP side for midmarket customers.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 18, 2018 at 12:48 PM0 comments

Microsoft Points Partners to SOC Opportunity

When it comes to broad, new business opportunities for Microsoft partners, security stands apart.

No matter how specialized a partner may be, security concerns are on the rise and they cut across every vertical and niche. Between the need for customers to up their security game and a global skills shortage, there are plenty of ways for partners to rush in.

In a recent online briefing for U.S. partners, Microsoft Vice President for Enterprise and Security Ann Johnson singled out security operations centers (SOCs) as a huge emerging opportunity.

First, Johnson, a veteran of senior posts at Qualys Inc. and RSA Security LLC before joining Microsoft, made a case for managed security services.

"All of our customers are saying, 'Look, we don't have the resources to actually drive a fully robust security program,' especially when you get into small to midsize business. They just can't hire the security professionals. If I were a partner today, I would build a managed security service offering. Of course, I would build it on top of Microsoft tooling, but I would build a managed service security offering so you can supplement your customers' capabilities, you can supplement your customers' skills and you can do it at scale," Johnson said.

Within that broader area, Johnson zeroed in on the need for managed SOCs. An SOC can be defined as a team or a facility dedicated to preventing, detecting, assessing and responding to security incidents. Regulatory compliance requirements are a major driver for SOCs.

"I would focus on managed security operations centers, because, candidly, managed SOCs are places where customers need a lot of help and you can get a lot of breadth across their environment by focusing on that area," she said. "You can also drive a lot of value to your customers by actually helping them build out their SOC and run their SOC, and customers are asking us today for that type of help. So if I were a partner, I would focus on building managed SOC services."

Johnson enumerated various tiers of SOC-related opportunities, from architecting to building to automating to running the facilities.

Johnson and Microsoft are not the only ones pointing to the opportunity. In a press Q&A in October, Gartner analyst Siddharth Deshpande made a strong case for managed SOC services.

"Building a SOC -- or generally creating some form of internal security operations capabilities -- is a costly and time-consuming effort that requires ongoing attention in order to be effective. Indeed, a great number of organizations (including some large organizations) choose not to have a SOC. Instead, they choose other security monitoring options, such as engaging a managed security service provider (MSSP)," Deshpande said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 14, 2018 at 9:59 AM0 comments

Changes to Microsoft Office Ribbon, Colors and Search on Tap

Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled big feature changes for the Office user experience, including a simplified ribbon, new colors and icons, and a search overhaul, about a month and a half behind Google's release of major updates for Gmail.

The changes will roll out in stages over the next few months, starting with Web versions, and will be exclusive to and Office 365. Apparently remembering the significant user backlash that accompanied the original rollout of the Office ribbon, Microsoft is taking care to present the changes as a work-in-progress that will be tested with initial user groups and modified as necessary, rather than blasted out to the billion-plus monthly users of Office.

"We plan on carefully monitoring usage and feedback as the changes roll out, and we'll update our designs as we learn more," wrote Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Office and Windows Marketing, in a blog post announcing the updates.

Additionally, user control over implementing the changes is a key design principle. "We want to give users control, allowing them to toggle significant changes on and off," Spataro said. In fact, there is no current schedule to push the ribbon changes to Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Windows. "They're the preferred experience for users who want to get the most from our apps. Users have a lot of 'muscle memory' built around these versions, so we plan on being especially careful with changes that could disrupt their work," he wrote.

The ribbon takes up less screen real estate and is more context-driven, with Microsoft trying to anticipate what a user wants to do. An underline appears below the main menu tabs, with options appearing underneath the tab in a single line that uses new colors and icons intended to provide more contrast and more intuitive navigation.

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

In a video demonstration, Jon Friedman, chief designer for Office at Microsoft, opened a Word document from the Office 365 interface to demonstrate a new speediness to the process. "Office is rebuilt on a modern platform to be faster than ever," Friedman said.

The new search functionality includes a more prominent search bar and brings in what Microsoft calls "zero query search," in which recommendations are presented based on Microsoft's predictive algorithms and data about the user's behavior and working relationships.

Microsoft shared several milestones in its timeline for rolling out the new Office features:

  • All commercial users of, SharePoint Online and the Outlook mobile app have immediate access to the search changes.

  • Select consumer users of Web versions of Word will see the simplified ribbon this week.

  • The color and icon changes will come to the Web versions of Word shortly.

  • Select Insiders using Windows versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint will see color and icon changes later this month.

  • Color and icon changes will come to Outlook for Windows in July.

  • Select Insiders will see the simplified ribbon on Outlook for Windows in July.

  • In August, commercial users of Outlook on the Web will see the search changes.

  • Also in August, Outlook for Mac users will get the color and icon changes.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 13, 2018 at 10:35 AM0 comments