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Cheers (and Mainly Jeers) for the Microsoft Partner Program

Last week, in an entry on a shakeup in the Microsoft Partner Program, we asked you to submit your thoughts on the program -- what it's doing (or not doing) for you, and what you'd like to see from it. And submit them you did.

Now, we know that Microsoft has lots and lots of partners -- the company now says 400,000 -- and we're sure that many of them are happy to be working with Redmond. But the responses we got reflect a few points of frustration that maybe some of you who didn't write also share. Read and decide for yourself, and please keep your thoughts coming to us. (And, in case you were wondering, yes, we do sometimes share these sentiments with Redmond. So you're not just complaining into a vacuum.)

Don starts us off, noting that not all Registered Members of the MSPP are necessarily equal. Some, he says, are clearly more dedicated than others:

"I've already stated my opinion to Microsoft about the Registered partner program that they have in place. I feel it's a slap in the face to those of us who have worked really hard. Right now, Joe Blow who runs a welding shop can sign up as a Registered partner, purchase the Action Packs and not only have cheap software but get listed on the portal. Of course, I'm not sure who would try and use Joe's welding and computer services, but it does add to the chaos."

Don, we can relate to this. RCP is, after all, a Registered Member of the Microsoft Partner Program. And, while we hope we're providing value to our readers, we're certainly not selling and servicing Microsoft technology the way you are, nor are we directly driving revenue for Microsoft. No, not all Registered Members are on the same level in terms of importance to Microsoft, but they are on the same level in the Partner Program. Maybe Microsoft needs to look into that. Of course, the option to move up to Certified Member might be worth considering, as well, although that's a very tough move for lots of smaller shops.

Speaking of which, Gary, who runs a one-man shop, is sick and tired of Microsoft's constant changes to its various programs and the complexity of Microsoft licensing:

"I am an OEM System Builder, a one-man shop that tries to count on my vendors and suppliers for support. My biggest gripe with Microsoft is that they change programs faster than I can keep up! Every time I turn around, they have a new 'program' or 'initiative.' They have done this for years, and I am tired of it. Same goes for their Web sites. I never have locked down their licensing scheme, since about the time I understand it, they change it. I just trust my distributors to keep me straight and have to play 20 questions with them every time I do a licensing job. They have NO mercy on us. I think they forget that we have to deal with more than just them. Have they heard of the Intel Products Dealer Program, or the AMD System Builder program? Let's not forget the Samsung Power Sellers Program, or the Mitsubishi/NEC reseller program. And on and on. GIVE ME A BREAK!!!"

Gary, you deserve a break, and you're not alone in making this point. Microsoft licensing, in particular, is complex. Whether the company can really do anything about that, we don't know, but maybe some better guidance on the finer points of licensing would be in order -- or, maybe, some consistency would be nice.

Kevin rounds out our comments today with one that reflects the complaints in the first two e-mails:

"We have been dissatisfied with the Partner Program because Microsoft has become more concerned about Microsoft than its partners. First, there is the requirement for two MCSEs to be at the Certified level; we have only one, and we will not partner with other partners to fulfill the requirement. Our clients deserve the privacy of not having their problems outsourced to every Tom, Dick and Bill in the partner registry. Most of our 'Certified' competitors don't even have one real MCSE on staff. It gets worse when you are dealing with other areas of expertise such as SQL or system builders. We don't think much of the Certified or Gold programs.

"Then there is the problem with the solutions being all Microsoft, all the time. To demonstrate the point, Microsoft changed one of the security tools to require One Note [we're pretty sure that's an unfriendly reference to OneCare --LP] to be installed on the clients. Be realistic; it's hard enough to promote any real security solutions in a competitive situation. It's quite another to be laughed out of the security infrastructure by your competitors while trying to do so.

"Also, Microsoft has to put all their little rules and gotchas into the mix. We were upset when Microsoft changed the rules for the Action Pack software. Now, if you quit the Action Pack you will need to uninstall all the software. Therefore, if we stop getting the Action Pack, shouldn't we just eliminate the partnership altogether?

"Finally, we were upset when the Action Pack only included the Vista upgrade. All this did was prove that the high-performance computers we built last week would never meet customers' expectations. Therefore, we will not be upgrading any XP computers to Vista. Microsoft actually did us a favor. But we are still vehement about Registered partners being treated as second-class citizens. When we do get the OEM version, how many Vista computers will we have to build before we have one that meets our performance standards?

"In conclusion, Microsoft needs to understand that they have no real knowledge of what partners have to do to make the deals with the end customers. They should be more concerned about helping the smaller partners than helping Microsoft."

So, there you go, Redmond. Again, we at RCPU are sure that a lot of partners are happy with the Partner Program (few people ever write to say how happy they are with something, after all). But these three smaller partners have raised some legitimate concerns, and it's not the first time we've heard them. To everybody who took the time to write, thank you. To Microsoft and the folks at the Partner Program, we hope you're paying attention.

Have any other gripes about the Partner Program, or any compliments or kind words? Send them all to me at lpender@rcpmag.com. We'll revisit this topic periodically.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 08, 2007 at 11:54 AM