Partner Advocate

New Campaigns Signal a Shift in Gears

Microsoft offers creative ways to get more business out of Vista, and partners are the primary beneficiaries of those moves.

As a company that drives its business through its partners, Microsoft's product groups and its partner team should be working hand-in-hand during product development to make sure all new offerings clearly align with partner business opportunities.

There was plenty of evidence that Microsoft had its partners' success in mind during the simultaneous "business launch" on Nov. 30 of Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 2007 System and Exchange Server 2007. (Broad availability for consumers and non-volume business customers is set for later this month.)

When it comes to making a business case for Vista, the argument boils down to emphasizing greater security and easier, cheaper deployment and management. To get partners prepared and to help them take advantage of opportunities in desktop rollouts, Microsoft created a new Windows Desktop Deployment competency specialization.

Another encouraging partner program is a new Office incentive exploiting the massive hard-drive capacity in new systems for partner-and Microsoft-benefit. Have customers who don't realize they're interested in Office? No problem. Under Microsoft's new program, OEMs and channel resellers can load Office onto the new PC anyway at no cost to themselves: Customers test Office as a free trial. Those who like what they see can purchase product keys from their resellers. The OEMs and resellers get commissions.

Microsoft says the momentum around the new products, already immense, is building for partners. For example, the company says more than 4,500 systems integrators are trained on Windows Vista so that they're ready to perform massive upgrades at launch. But some partners have told me they're not feeling that momentum given the delays and the way Vista is dribbling out in a two-part launch. Analyst studies predict a bump in sales, but they also indicate that much Vista and Office business will be driven by system replacements.

In some ways, the disconnect between Microsoft's view and some partners' perceptions may just be a different style of customer marketing that coincides with this generation of product releases. Many of Microsoft's newer campaigns for partners, most notably "People Ready," are built around conversations with customers that focus on business solutions rather than on particular versions of Microsoft products.

What do you think? Is Microsoft putting the right kinds of programs and marketing out there for you to get your business going on the new wave of software? E-mail me your thoughts at [email protected].

About the Author

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