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Martorano: Expect 'Measured' Rollout of Microsoft Surface to Channel

Eric Martorano holds a new and important position in Microsoft's U.S. partner organization.

This month, U.S. Partner Sales and Programs Vice President Jenni Flinders consolidated management of Microsoft's National Systems Integrators (NSIs) and Licensing Solution Providers (LSPs, formerly Large Account Resellers) into one organization called the U.S. Partner sales team. Then she added responsibility for selling Microsoft Surface devices through the U.S. channel into the mix to make the position even more consequential.

To fill the role, Flinders brought Martorano over from Cindy Bates' organization, where he had led the SMB channel business for three and a half years. We caught up with Martorano Thursday. Here's a portion of the interview (check out our October issue for more). Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity:

Tell us about the newly formed U.S. Partner sales team?
What Jenni has done is create a center of excellence in our business focused around really dedicated solution partners...National Systems Integrators and Licensing Solutions Providers.

A new piece of this that hadn't been in the org in the past [is Surface]. Jenni was leading up the architecture for the go-to-market around our Surface partner strategy, which I was a part of at the beginning with Sherry Willman [who was previously in charge of LARs/LSPs]. The Surface partner sales team will report to me, as well.

What does it mean that you'll be leading the Surface sales team? I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about what that is?
Our responsibility is to really make sure that we are successfully taking Surface into the commercial market and supporting today our Authorized Device Partners. In the U.S. we currently have 10. It's supporting them as they try to go out and push our Surface opportunities.

Most of those 10 partners, are they already included in the LSPs or the NSIs or are they distinct?
Today, as part of the Microsoft Device Program, 10 of our LSPs are in that program. Obviously, we're planning to provide Surface commercially in over 28 markets by Q1. And we'll look in the future to expand that.

I can imagine that the other three (LSPs) are chomping at the bit to be included.
Yeah, you know, there's a significant opportunity out there for Microsoft and our partner ecosystem around Surface. We're taking a really careful, phased approach to the availability of that to make sure that we're providing the best partner and customer experience for the Surface that we can. We are excited about that but we have to be very careful about how we approach that and make sure we do it right.

When you think about the Surface generation-one problems that led to a $900 million writedown, what do you think you can do in your role to drive success for the product?
I think there's great opportunity, we realize, taking it commercially through our partner ecosystem. I think that's a huge step forward of being able to get the Surface message out there, getting it into the hands of customers. I think once they see it and they use it, they'll fall in love with it, I really do.

A lot of partners wonder what their role will be in Surface sales, and in the "Devices" part of the new "Devices and Services" company definition. Should a broader section of partners expect that they're going to be able to represent Surface to their customers or is it really going to be contained to your purview, which is a very limited set of high-scale partners?
Although we are taking a measured and phased approach, we do believe that we need to make sure that we're doing it in a very thoughtful way. Our plan is to continue to expand, but we want to make sure what we're doing is in the best interest of our partners and customers, as well as Microsoft.

It's all about the solution. We want our partners to deliver the right solution. If the solution that the partners are bringing fits Surface, that's why we have that authorized channel for Surface. As we look forward, we'll absolutely look at expanding that channel.

The important thing to remember is we want to make sure that the experience that partners and our customers have is at a world-class level. We're not going to cut corners. We're going to make sure that when we take it to market, we take it to market in the right way. Although it might take us a little bit longer for some partners, they'll be quite happy when it comes.

Some partners believe you will be the champion of Surface sold by a broader base of partners. But reading your job description -- LSPs and NSIs -- it seems equally plausible that you're tasked with having the same partners sell Surface that are already able to sell it under the Microsoft Devices Program. Is expanding the partner sales opportunity to other groups of partners beyond your team part of your role or do those decisions lie elsewhere?
I would say everybody within the company has a responsibility to do what's right for our entire partner ecosystem. I as well as Jenni are huge advocates for all partners. I was, as I mentioned earlier, one of the original architects for taking this to market. The end decision is really led by our Worldwide Partner Group, and Phil Sorgen will be on point for leading that go-to-market into the broader ecosystem. But myself and Jenni will absolutely act as advisors and support whatever needs to happen to make sure that we're doing what's in the best interest of our entire partner ecosystem.

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About the Author

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

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