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WPC 2011: 6 Things To Watch

With the Worldwide Partner Conference just around the corner, here are six topics Microsoft-watchers will be especially on the lookout for.

  • Stay tuned to @scottbekker and our WPC 2011 page for news, analysis and up-to-the-minute Tweets straight from the conference floor in Los Angeles!


1. Windows 8
Is a pre-beta version of the next Windows operating system in the works for WPC? The site WinRumors spotted this Tweet on Tuesday from @MSFTm, an account it says has a track record for revealing "accurate details on Windows 8 builds":

Tweet

This is still purely speculation, of course; Microsoft hasn't confirmed the Tweet. But whether or not a pre-beta version is revealed next week, Windows 8 should still be a hot topic at WPC. Despite some concerns over how touch-centric the forthcoming OS appears to be, based on Microsoft's preview last month, partners are still excited about Windows 8. In fact, they're calling it something that few Microsoft products are ever called: "cool." (See "Microsoft Partners Energized by 'Windows 8'" from RCP's July issue.)


2. Mango
It's hard to talk about Window 8 without also talking about "Mango," the update to the Windows Phone 7 OS that's expected to be released in the fall. The tile-and-app design of both products signals a user-interface revolution of sorts that could either boost Microsoft's smartphone standing -- which, to be honest, could use a lot of help -- or backfire completely.

Microsoft and its mobile hardware partners have a couple of hurdles to overcome (see "4 Obstacles for Windows Phone 7 Mango"), but so far the buzz surrounding Mango has been anticipatory. The OS update should get the limelight in Tuesday's WPC keynote, "A World of Smart Devices."


3. Cloud: Still All In
No surprise, cloud computing is expected to be a major talking point in this year's WPC, especially on the heels of Office 365's launch. In a recent Twitter chat to discuss WPC, Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, indicated that the conference will shine a spotlight on partner opportunities within Azure and Microsoft's Cloud Accelerate program (see "WPC Preview: Azure, Nokia, Vertical Opportunities, P2P Networking").


4. The Skype Buy
Microsoft has been strengthening its position in the unified communications space lately, with Lync picking up some steam (see "Unified Communications: Microsoft Partners Are Lyncing Up") and analysts placing favorable odds on Microsoft to eventually challenge Cisco's UC hegemony.

However, the company has kept mostly mum about its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skpe; barely a word about it was mentioned during the Tech-Ed conference back in May, despite the deal having just been announced. Microsoft is due for a discussion about what the Skype buy will mean for its partners and their customers.


5. Intune 2.0
It was at WPC last year that Windows executive Tami Reller introduced Windows Intune as a product with partner potential. At the time, Reller introduced the second beta of Windows Intune, the cloud-based system management product that sells for $11 per PC per month. This year she'll be on stage again on Monday during CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote. Could Reller have more Intune news? Mary Jo Foley of "All About Microsoft" reports that tipsters tell her Microsoft is ready to unveil a beta of Windows Intune 2.0 at WPC.


6. Why Go Silver?
Is it worth it to aim for a silver competency, which in some ways is harder to achieve than a Gold Certified standing under the old Microsoft Partner Program? Lately, that seems to be a common question for Microsoft partners, one that has the company emphasizing the silver competency's exclusivity to attract more partners. At least part of Roskill's "Value of MPN" keynote on Wednesday is expected to be along that same vein.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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