Three weeks after unveiling the Surface Go, Microsoft on Thursday made the smallest of its 2-in-1 devices available in the United States and Canada.
Sold in Microsoft Stores, Best Buy and through reseller partners, the Surface Go sports a 10-inch screen, weighs 1.15 pounds, is a third of an inch thick 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, and its ports and jacks support USB-C, Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover, headphones and a microSDXC card.
The entry-level model comes with a 64GB eMMC drive and 4GB of RAM for $399. The higher-end version has a 128GB solid-state drive and 8GB of RAM for $549. Much of the signature functionality of Surface devices requires additional purchases, such as the Surface Go Signature Type Cover for $99 and the Surface Pen for $99.99. A new Surface Mobile Mouse costs $34.99.
The two versions showed up in stock at Microsoft Stores around the United States and Canada, but the release represents the first phase of a multi-stage release plan. In a blog, Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, said Surface Go would be available in other countries later this month.
Much of Mehdi's post focused on how people are more comfortable knowing that a laptop is nearby when they're on vacation, and that satisfaction with straightforward tablets is on the decline.
When the pricing is taken into account, Microsoft is basically selling a tablet for as little as $400 with Surface Go, but pitching the base capability delivered by that tablet with the keyboard/cover for a real base price of $500. The full configurations with keyboard/cover, pen and mouse will run either $635 for the 64GB model or $785 for the 128GB model.
The flagship version that CEO Satya Nadella called attention to last month at the Microsoft Inspire conference won't be available until later this year. That version will include LTE connectivity, in addition to the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in to the other models. Pricing has not been disclosed for the LTE Surface Go. Discussing his home and work productivity setup at Inspire, Nadella said he had an early-access version of the LTE model.
Posted by Scott Bekker on August 02, 2018 at 2:57 PM0 comments
Microsoft licensing changes coming next quarter will tilt the playing field further toward cloud subscriptions versus on-premises licensing, especially for Office 2019.
Microsoft announced several licensing changes this week that will go into effect on Oct. 1.
The clearest change is a 10 percent hike in Office 2019 commercial prices, to include the Office client, Enterprise CAL, Core CAL and server products. Office 2019 is expected to ship later this year. Microsoft also released preview versions of several Office 2019 servers earlier this week.
The pricing change is one of several ways that Microsoft has been constraining the on-premises version of Office as it tries to steer customers to the subscription- and cloud-based Office 365. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a shorter support lifecycle for Office 2019, which will have five years of mainstream support and two years of extended support. The regular Microsoft support cycle calls for five years of extended support, so 10 years of total support rather than the seven being offered for Office 2019.
Additionally, Microsoft has said Office 2019 will only be supported on Windows 10, not Windows 7. That limitation occurs even though the Windows 7 lifecycle doesn't end until January 2020, a full year after the Office 2019 release.
There is also a price increase in Windows 10. Microsoft announced it is renaming the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 offers and raising the price of the per-device version to match the per-user version. The E3 name will now refer only to the per-user offer. That means Windows 10 Enterprise E3 per User becomes Windows 10 Enterprise E3, and Windows 10 Enterprise E3 per Device becomes Windows 10 Enterprise.
Microsoft unveiled several other broad changes to its volume licensing programs:
- Establishing a single, consistent starting price across all programs aligned to web direct for online services (OLS)
- Removing the programmatic volume discounts (Level A and Open Level C) in Enterprise Agreement (EA)/EA Subscription, MPSA, Select/ Select Plus, and Open programs (Open, Open Value, Open Value Subscription)
- Aligning government pricing for on-premises and online services to the lowest commercial price in EA/EAS, MPSA, Select Plus, and Open Programs
- Delivering a newly designed Customer Price Sheet that better outlines how a customer's price was derived (direct EA/EAS only)
With its announcement post, Microsoft positioned the changes as part of a "Modern Commerce" strategy. "These changes will highlight the benefits of our pricing for a cloud-first world, help us move from program-centric to a customer-centric pricing structure, and create more consistency and transparency across our purchasing channels," read the post, which was attributed to the MPN (Microsoft Partner Network) team.
In a series of Tweets, Directions on Microsoft analyst Wes Miller called the Office licensing adjustment an important change to note.
"If you add all of these motions up, and look at other lightly announced price increases, it clearly points toward encouraging customers that have avoided licensing Office 365 (or now Microsoft 365) to look again," Miller wrote under his Twitter handle @getwired.
Additionally, Miller, who follows licensing closely at Directions, called the newly released Office price changes, along with the shorter support lifecycle, the first two shoes to drop, with two other changes likely later.
"Possible shoe 3: Highly likely that Office 2019 Professional Plus won't feature roaming rights, and that it will drop them over the next 3 years, as Windows 10 did (a process that completes in early 2019). Meaning if you have server-based desktops of any kind, it's ProPlus time," Miller wrote. "Possible shoe 4: Will there even _be_ an Office 2019 Standard? Less and less differentiating value between it and Professional Plus - we've long thought it might be dropped."
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 27, 2018 at 8:57 AM0 comments
Just as it beat the drum around Windows XP's end of life a few years ago, Microsoft is now starting to warn its partners and customers that a popular desktop configuration is nearing the support cliff.
The new focus of the upgrade talk is Windows 7 and Office 2010. Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, started the Windows 7/Office 2010 conversation during a keynote last week at Microsoft Inspire.
"This move over the next three years represents a $100 billion opportunity for all of our partners," Markezich said at Microsoft's biggest annual gathering for partners from around the world.
The deadlines for extended support on the two products are Jan. 14, 2020 for Windows 7 and Oct. 13, 2020 for Office 2010.
The last big refresh cycle was around the extremely popular Windows XP desktop, which went out of extended support in April 2014. End of support for XP's follow-on, Windows Vista, arrived three years later, but was not a big deal given Vista's comparatively low adoption.
It makes sense for Markezich to be the one to start the drumbeat this time around. When XP was hitting end-of-life, the biggest issue was security and compatibility. While XP was incredibly stable for a Windows release and offered solid performance on many applications until late in its lifecycle, Microsoft was having trouble keeping the aging code up to date with evolving security threats, and compatibility with newer devices and applications was becoming problematic.
For this cycle, the move from Windows 7 represents a shift -- should users stick with Microsoft -- to the constantly upgraded Windows 10 on the OS side. On the Office side, the push will be to get users from the desktop Office paradigm into an Office 365 subscription and the cloud.
Both are under Markezich's purview. He runs the Microsoft 365 business, which is the core of Microsoft's Modern Desktop initiative and includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS).
Expect a hard sell from Microsoft from now through 2020 to get those desktops moved to Windows 10 and Office 365.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 25, 2018 at 11:39 AM0 comments
Microsoft's annual partner conference, Inspire, just wrapped up in Las Vegas, where it was combined for the first time with the Microsoft Ready internal sales event.
Here are some key moments from the Inspire keynotes that illustrated some of biggest themes from the show, which also represented the unofficial start of Microsoft's fiscal year.
Intelligent Cloud/Intelligent Edge
"The opportunities for us to serve our customers in this new era of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge is far greater. I've sort of lived through the client-server, the Web, mobile, cloud, but what we're going to see going forward is going to be even more profound." --Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
During his keynote last Wednesday, Nadella walked attendees through a number of customer scenarios that hit on the intelligent cloud or the intelligent edge. The messaging covers the Azure platform in all its iterations from the public cloud to Azure Stack to Azure Sphere, and includes the artificial intelligence (AI) that is built into many Azure services.
Focus on Privacy
"Privacy is a fundamental human right. ... Our fundamental value proposition for our customers, not just as a company, but as a community, that we will help them better protect the privacy of their customers." --Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft
In a keynote, Smith reiterated Microsoft's commitment to improving privacy and security for customers, while also trying to take a thought leadership role in the ethics of AI.
Modern Workplace Refresh
"This move over the next three years represents a $100 billion opportunity for all of our partners." --Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft 365
Markezich runs the Microsoft 365 business, which is the core of Microsoft's Modern Desktop initiative and includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). Markezich was describing the opportunity to sell Microsoft 365 and associated devices due to the upcoming upgrade cycle around end of support for Windows 7 and Office 2010.
"I was very excited to welcome the Windows team into Azure, and we're one unified group now. So, everything from silicon at the base level, firmware, operating systems, everything in the middle of the stack up through app stack to tools, we've got everything on one team to go deliver on this vision." --Jason Zander, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Azure
During his keynote about Azure for partners, Zander made the case for why the Windows team was consolidated under his engineering unit.
"We've built over 28,000 solutions, services and applications with you this past fiscal year. We have generated over 3 million leads out to partners and jointly developed over 100,000 co-sell opportunities. And, get this, we have landed over $5 billion in partner sales. That's your sales, not Microsoft's sales, $5 billion. And the best thing about that is that that is with 87 percent of IP co-sell ready partners participating in that motion." --Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft
From being announced a year ago, the Microsoft co-selling program with partners gained a lot of steam in fiscal year 2018. Schuster said Microsoft will continue to reward Microsoft sellers for selling partner solutions at 10 percent of partners' contract value at least through June 2019.
"The amount of interconnect cable we have across Azure datacenters is enough to go to the moon and back three times over. It's crazy." --Satya Nadella
The Inspire keynotes are always a time for metrics about the scale of Azure. Nadella talked about the cabling in the context of Microsoft having added 14 datacenter regions over the last fiscal year to bring the total to 54 worldwide. Elsewhere during the show, Microsoft shared that its private network includes over 4,500 peering locations and 130 edge sites.
"Today is a momentous milestone for us, bringing together these two communities, Inspire and Ready, because that's how our customers see us, as one. And to be able to kick off our fiscal year is something that I think is going to really mark a real difference in how we as this tech community are going to serve our customers going forward." --Satya Nadella
This statement during Nadella's Wednesday keynote captured the main reason for combining the two conferences for the first time.
"I always say this to any student who is joining Microsoft or looking to join Microsoft. I say to them, 'Look, if you want to be cool, go look for someplace else. But if you want to join a company that is committed to making others cool, join Microsoft.'" --Satya Nadella.
After decades in Redmond, Nadella really put his finger on the pulse of what it means to work at Microsoft or be in the Microsoft ecosystem. The statement was a big applause line in Las Vegas.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 23, 2018 at 11:03 AM0 comments
Microsoft blasted past the $100 billion revenue milestone for its recently finished fiscal year.
Financial results released after markets closed on Thursday showed revenues of $110.36 billion for the full year ended June 30, a 14% jump compared to the $96.57 billion in revenues the previous year.
"We had an incredible year, surpassing $100 billion in revenue as a result of our teams' relentless focus on customer success and the trust customers are placing in Microsoft," said CEO Satya Nadella in a statement accompanying the financial results. Nadella called out the company's early investments in intelligent cloud and intelligent edge as paying off.
CFO Amy Hood added that sales execution and commercial cloud revenue growth were key to strong results in the fourth quarter.
For Q4, Microsoft reported a 17% revenue gain to $30.1 billion and earnings per share of $1.13. Both figures beat analyst expectations and the stock was up slightly in after-hours trading.
Earlier in the week at the Microsoft Inspire conference for partners, company officials modeled estimates of total Microsoft ecosystem value, including partner revenues, based on a Microsoft annual revenue base of $100 billion.
By major business units, the fourth quarter revenue was up 13% to $9.7 billion in Productivity and Business Processes, up 23% to $9.6 billion in Intelligent Cloud, and up 17% to $10.8 billion in More Personal Computing.
Among the more granular product and service highlights:
- Commercial cloud gains were slightly less impressive than the previous sequential quarter. This business was up an impressive 53% year over year, but the figure was 58% for the third quarter. Commercial cloud revenues totaled $6.9 billion and include commercial versions of Office 365, Dynamics 365 and the Azure public cloud.
Azure revenues on their own were up 89%, Dynamics 365 revenues were up 61% and Office 365 commercial revenues were up 38%.
- Windows OEM revenue was up 7%, driven by 14% growth on the OEM Pro side and offset by a 3% drop on the non-Pro side. Revenues for Surface shot up 25%, with Microsoft noting that new editions are faring well against a low prior-year comparable. For the full year, the Surface unit generated $4.6 billion in revenues.
- Enterprise services revenues also tell an interesting story in the fiscal year. Always a point of interest for channel partners who often compete with Microsoft consultants, the service business over the past fiscal year has seen steady growth. In fiscal year 2017, enterprise services posted a 2% decline in revenues compared to the year before. Yet for FY18, revenues were up 1% in Q1, 5% in Q2, 8% in Q3 and 8% again in Q4. For the full year, enterprise service revenues increased 5%.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 19, 2018 at 2:46 PM0 comments
Microsoft Inspire 2018 wraps up today, and partners are heading home from Las Vegas with a dizzying amount of news buzzing between their ears.
There were a lot of announcements around Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 on the product side, but Microsoft also rolled out significant changes to the way that it works with partners.
With Microsoft's fiscal year 2019 just getting underway, it's critical for partners to understand those changes if they want to stay aligned with Redmond.
We've collected the top programs, priorities and payments for partners that Microsoft unveiled at Inspire and in the lead-up to the show. Download RCP's exclusive "Partner's Guide to Microsoft's Fiscal Year 2019" for details.
You'll get the lowdown on the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program changes, the new Azure Expert MSP program, Microsoft AppSource, investments in the co-selling program and more.
Don't miss this opportunity to get a jump start on FY '19. The guide is available here (registration required).
P.S. While you're on RCPmag.com, be sure to check out the "Partner's Guide to Making the Most of Dynamics 365 IUR." It's full of tips and tricks for unpacking the value of Dynamics 365 for your partner business and saving money on CRM/ERP functionality by using Internal Use Rights (IURs) rather than paying for subscriptions.
Posted by Scott Bekker on July 19, 2018 at 12:41 PM0 comments
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.
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 Outlook.com 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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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 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
Data & AI
Additional MSUS Awards
Posted by Scott Bekker on June 29, 2018 at 2:45 PM0 comments
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