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Microsoft, Intel Team for System Builder Road Shows

Microsoft and Intel will start a joint 23-city road show later this month to give the system builder channel a brain dump on the combined benefits of Intel Core 2 Duo processors, Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system.

The first of the "Ready 2 Rock" tour events will be in Miami Oct. 24. and the last will occur Dec. 14 in Seattle. The timing generally overlaps with the rumored release to manufacturing of Vista in late October and launch of the new Microsoft products in late November.

Shirley Turner, Intel's director of North America Channel Partner Marketing, says the timing of the show has more to do with Intel's usual end-of-year road show and to help system builders get in gear in time to ship technologies with the general availability for Vista/Office in early 2007. Vista and Office are on a two-tier release cycle – with availability for large corporate buyers in November and general availability early next year.

"We were both about to launch our individual road shows," Turner said. "This is about the time of year that we do our fall shows. It's the same timing as the last four years [for Intel]."

Turner said Intel and Microsoft started talking about combining their road shows about six weeks ago. "I think this is very much a case of one plus one equals way more," Turner said.

John Ball, general manager of the U.S. System Builder Partners Group at Microsoft, agreed that now is the time for Microsoft's system builder channel to get ready for Vista and Office.

"The sweet spot of time for systems builders is really as soon as the products launch," Ball said. "A lot of the small and mid-market account marketplace is the system builder channel. Getting the skills and getting the tools and the understanding of what we're doing is going to be really important."

"If you look at the overall PC ecosystem, there's going to be a range of organizations that will move to Vista faster than others," Ball said. "The consensus is that the organizations that are smaller and are more tactical in their approach to IT will actually move to Vista quicker. A lot of the system builders in the U.S. today service that small/local market."

Ball described the road show with Intel as one part of Microsoft's effort to train 80,000 system builders worldwide before the general release of Vista and Office 2007. Turner said the companies' hopes for the tour included reaching 7,500-8,000 system builders.

Microsoft's broader system builder training campaign includes online training from the Microsoft Partner University and live sessions at 80 New Horizons locations nationwide. However, both Ball and Turner argued that the road show events have unique benefits.

"There are vendor showcases throughout the day. Anywhere from 20-40 other system builder vendors -- for hard drives or cables, some of the distributors – are going to be there," Turner said. Added Ball, "We'll also be giving [attendees] copies of Vista and Office at the show to present and demo. But we'll also show how to sell the key features. It's hard to do that unless you're physically in a [training] environment."

Tour locations include Atlanta (Nov. 2), Boston: (Nov. 28), Chicago (Nov. 6), City of Industry (Nov. 30), Cleveland (Nov. 9), Dallas (Nov. 10), Denver (Nov. 13), Houston (Nov. 7), Irvine (Nov. 28), Long Island (Nov. 30), Miami (Oct. 24), Minneapolis (Nov. 2), Montreal (Nov. 16), Newark (Dec. 7), Orlando (Oct. 26), Philadelphia (Dec. 4), Phoenix (Nov. 16), Portland (Dec. 12), San Jose (Dec. 5), Seattle (Dec. 14), Toronto (Nov. 14), Vancouver (Oct. 25) and Washington, D.C. (Dec. 13).

More information is available at www.intelmicrosoftr2r.com.

About the Author

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