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Microsoft Opens Sign Ups for Partner Program Enhancements

The changes to the Microsoft Partner Program that the company originally outlined in July got a soft launch this week in preparation for the full rollout in January.

"We've been in a period of transition that's lasted between 18 and 24 months, where we've consolidated all of our different partner programs," said Richard Flynn, director of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Program. Microsoft refers to this set of changes to the program as the 2006 enhancements. "These are really about making sure partners have the right tools," Flynn said.

What changed this week is that partners can begin to sign up for the new competencies, view new tools and rules for the Microsoft Points Program and see details on new benefits.

Flynn described the partner competencies as the heart of Microsoft's Partner Program, and this week marks the soft launch of four new ones -- OEM Hardware Solutions, Custom Development Solutions, Mobility Solutions and Licensing Solutions.

"The typical VAR or solutions provider has had a home for the first 18 months," Flynn said. "These are filling the largest holes in the ecosystem."

With the OEM hardware competency, Microsoft is reaching out to about 70,000 system builders who don't have a home within the current partner program. "This is really going to mean that they've now got a place within the partner program, and we're able to engage them more fully with what they do in the marketplace," Flynn said.

While one of Microsoft's key strengths has been its relationships with independent software vendors, there haven't been many formal programs for custom application developers who write unique applications for individual customers. The Custom Development Solutions competency addresses that group.

The Mobility Solutions competency provides a label to help drive partner business around Pocket PC and Microsoft's other mobility platforms.

Microsoft's revenue-producing high-end licensing partners and smaller-end Open licensing partners also lacked an official place in the Microsoft Partner Program, a gap now filled by the Licensing Solutions competency, Flynn said.

Microsoft also will hold a Webcast on Nov. 29 to provide details about the OEM Hardware Solutions competency.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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