Partner Advocate

Catching the Desktop Train

Microsoft is readying two major end-user products, Vista and Office 2007, to roll on through by the end of 2006.

There's an opportunity train coming down the tracks in Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 later this year. Will you be ready?

The two products are the major moneymakers in Microsoft's lineup, and they're gathering steam. In recent months, Microsoft went through two key pre-delivery routines. One was unveiling the packaging of the products. The Windows Vista operating system will come in Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, Ultimate and Starter editions. Office 2007 editions will include Enterprise, Professional, Professional Plus, Small Business, Standard, Home, Student and Basic.

Microsoft went one better with Office, providing prices for most of the packages. It's very early in the release cycle for a pricing announcement, given that the products aren't planned to ship until late this year.

The other pre-delivery routine is broad public testing of pre-release code. For Vista, Community Technology Previews (CTPs) replaced betas. The company cycled through CTPs aimed at partners and the enterprise with the consumer-focused CTP right around the corner. On the Office side, a technical beta went out in November, with the main beta pending at press time.

The CTPs and betas aren't exactly on an authoritarian train schedule. After committing to a monthly CTP late last year, Microsoft slipped into a less predictable quality-bar approach for Vista CTPs. Still, few seriously believe Microsoft will miss this ship date. Too much of the high-tech economy is banking on Vista driving a consumer computer-buying binge this holiday shopping season.

Which is where you come in. Launches of major products like Windows and Office require the full engagement of Microsoft's partner machinery. The partner engine started humming last year for independent hardware vendors. The momentum kept building early this year as independent software vendors began attending "Touchdown" and other ISV events. In the next few months, all resellers and integrators will be ushered aboard for technical training.

The Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston this July should be a key event, where resellers and integrators will get the goods on opportunities and possibilities in the new products, and maybe even a few hints on how Windows "Longhorn" Server and the next version of Exchange will fit in. Leading up to the show, Microsoft plans to make training resources available online for sales, marketing and technical types alike to begin learning the ins and outs of the new desktop products. The company also encourages Certified and Gold Certified Partners to load, test and evaluate preview releases of the new products. Microsoft partner officials note that the slow summer months tend to be a great time for partners to get up to speed on new technology.

We're eager to know your plans. Will you have online training in June? Create Word 2007 docs in July? Build out Vista test networks in August? Do nothing? Write me at [email protected].

About the Author

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