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Ballmer to Partners: You're Either With Us or Against Us

Steve Ballmer was in full bloom this morning, sporting a regulation Microsoft-blue dress shirt and firing up the troops at the Worldwide Partner Conference here in Boston. But Ballmer wasn't all fist pumps and hackneyed catch phrases. Sounding as much like the president of the United States as the CEO of Microsoft, Ballmer told partners that some tough choices are ahead -- and that partners can either do things Redmond's way or wander into the wilderness on their own.

Ballmer focused his strong-arm comments on three areas: unified communications, security...and, oh yeah, search. "Those three businesses we want to build together," he said, amicably enough. But then the talk got a little tougher: "Will you choose to work with us or your traditional partners?" he sneered, not needing to name, among others, new security rivals such as Symantec or McAfee. The message was clear: In three key markets, Redmond wants it to be Microsoft's way or the highway for partners. (As long as that highway isn't the Mass Turnpike, which is literally falling apart and was the cause of a 30-minute delay in all events at the conference today; click here for the story taking place outside the confab.)

So, this is Microsoft's effort to use you -- its massive, influential channel -- to build its presence in new and expanding markets. Well, that makes sense. And in unified communications, with some of its forthcoming offerings (think Exchange Server 2007, Office Communications Server 2007, the Office Communicator 2007 client, etc.), Microsoft probably has as strong a lineup as anybody.

But, what about security? It's never been one of the company's strong points, and the Forefront suite is an entirely new package. Will it really be better for you to offer your customers Forefront just because Steve Ballmer wants you to help Microsoft crush Symantec? Sure, Forefront could and should be a competitive package, but you might not be ready to go all-Microsoft, all the time, especially if your customers have confidence in other, more familiar applications.

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And as for search...well, Redmond is pumping major money to get that effort up to speed, but Google is still king of the Web and has a solid foothold in the enterprise with the near-ubiquitous Google desktop. Microsoft has some work to do there (and has had for about a decade now), and while company leaders seem to understand that, they still want you to steer customers Microsoft's way. To be fair, some of the enterprise search demos we've seen here at the conference have been very impressive, and Forefront might very well be an excellent suite. Plus, it's never a good idea to count Microsoft out of any market, and the company has always had the ultimate integration story for most of its applications. But going 100 percent Microsoft should surely be a decision you and your customers make based on customers' needs and which technologies work best for them, not based on the fact that Redmond would like to see you shun its rivals.

Are you ready to buy into Ballmer's view of (even more) Microsoft world domination? Let me know at [email protected].

And coming Thursday: Your verdict on Windows Genuine Advantage! Here's a hint: It's pretty one-sided, and Microsoft isn't going to like it. By the way, many thanks to those of you who have e-mailed me on this topic. Your responses have shattered the all-time record for number of e-mails on a single subject, and rest assured that I'll (eventually) reply to you all personally.

This Time For Real? Gates Sort Of Confirms Vista Timing
From Africa (since his partner apparently didn't merit a personal visit), Bill Gates says he's 80 percent sure that Vista will hit its (latest) target release date.

Does Gates' statement fill you with confidence or dread? Let me know at [email protected].

Dynamics CRM Comes Alive
In the least-surprising story of the year, Microsoft officially unveiled Dynamics CRM Live, a software-as-a-service version of its customer relationship management application.

Eurofines become a Reality for Redmond
The Eurostory we've been telling you about continues....

Well, Microsoft has not settled its anti-trust case with the EU, so now it's time for Redmond to throw some euros Brussels' way. The news, not exactly a shock, doesn't seem to have affected Microsoft's deflated stock price much, but it's surely one expense (and a big hassle) that Redmond would rather not have to deal with. Click here to read the piece from Reuters.

RCP in the House at the WWPC
The RCP editors are getting their blog on from the partner conference in Boston this week. Check for updates. In the meantime, here are some tasty morsels to gnaw on:

Let me know what you think of the blogs at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on July 11, 2006