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LightSwitch Requires a New Marketing 'Muscle' for Microsoft, Partners

Microsoft hosted about 200 development-focused partner companies in Redmond for product briefings, NDA and otherwise, this week. Attendees included members of the Visual Studio Integration Partner Program (VSIP) and Microsoft Partner Network members in the Application Lifecycle Management competency.

The major piece of public news was the immediate availability of Visual Studio LightSwitch Beta 2. My colleague Michael Desmond has details on all the bells and whistles in the new beta here.

LightSwitch is new territory for Microsoft. Here's how Desmond described it:

"VS LightSwitch is aimed at business analysts and power users who often create ad hoc business logic in applications like FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Excel and Access. Based on Visual Studio, LightSwitch offers a visual, wizard-driven user interface that allows business users to craft true, .NET-based applications with rich data bindings. Unlike ad hoc development, the .NET code produced by LightSwitch can be seamlessly imported into Visual Studio for professional developers to inspect, edit and extend."

The open question is whether this group of development-focused partners, or any existing group of Microsoft partners, is the right set to explain the value of this particular product to customers.

Dave Mendlen, senior director of developer marketing at Microsoft, says of LightSwitch, "The reality is, it's a different muscle for us."

While Microsoft's developer tools marketers are accustomed to talking to professional developers, enterprise developers, testers, database professionals and project managers, they'll have to learn to engage business analysts and power users for LightSwitch to succeed.

"We're having to partner up with our friends over in the Office organization [on] how best to engage this kind of person," Mendlen said. "We're in the middle of that learning right now. Obviously, talking to these partners is a critical first step."

Mendlen contends that many of the same companies that found opportunities in extending Visual Basic for software developer customers will find analogous opportunities to extend LightSwitch for power users.

"My sense is that this ecosystem is going to look at this and say, 'We have a whole new audience. We have to think about this a very different way,'" he said.

Partners will have to get away from selling custom controls for a LightSwitch audience and move up the chain to offer entire objects, such as a business subsystem for credit card processing.

"I think we're going to see this shift from subatomic particles to a coarser-grained object. I think that's where we're going to evolve to with LightSwitch," Mendlen said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 17, 2011 at 11:58 AM


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