Partner Advocate

Microsoft's Hard Edge

There's a new tone in the Partner Program.

Microsoft executives showed a harder edge in their communication with partners this summer during the Worldwide Partner Conference (WWPC) in Boston. The new tone was most evident in keynotes from CEO Steve Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner.

Ballmer kicked off the conference with a speech that outlined a few new areas of business focus for Microsoft and included a demand that partners choose Microsoft over competitors-competitors who are longtime Microsoft strategic partners. "Search and portal, unified communications and security" are the areas where partners will have to choose Microsoft or competitors, Ballmer said. This all spells interesting times for strategic partners like Symantec Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Avaya Inc. and others, and lots of tap dancing for those of you who develop solutions using any one of those technologies alongside Microsoft's.

Ballmer wasn't the only one baring sharp teeth in front of partners. Turner, who recently acquired responsibility for most of the partner program (see last month's column), made some aggressive comments of his own during a keynote. "The fact of the matter is, there's not very many 501(c) nonprofit organizations in here, and certainly we aren't one of those," Turner said. And later, Turner made heads turn with this one: "We are not going to let Google win in the enterprise search business ... And those people are not going to be allowed to take food off of our plate, which is what they're attempting to get."

Not everything is changed. Allison Watson, corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group, upheld the WWPC tradition of getting Microsoft executives to high-five each other and thank partners for helping Microsoft succeed.

The Microsoft Partner Program was never a "nonprofit" organization, to use Turner's phrase, nor did partners want or need one from Microsoft. As Turner added during his keynote, "You want to make money. I heard that loud and clear from our partners." It seems more that Microsoft recognizes that it has turned a corner with its partner program. For the last few years, Microsoft focused on fixing the partner program by integrating separate partner programs, laying out clearer and fairer requirements and promoting the benefits of registration.

Now, it seems Microsoft executives feel comfortable enough that more of the focus can go toward making money together. And there's nothing wrong with that.

What do you think of the new tone? Let me know at [email protected].

About the Author

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