Microsoft WPC Themes: Cloud, Windows Phone, Slates and MPN (UPDATED)
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Office 365 and cloud computing, Windows Phone, a Windows slate and sales pitches for the now-seven-month-old Microsoft Partner Network are emerging as major themes for the 2011 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.
In the last week, Microsoft released the list of the 10 executives who will fill the main keynote slots between July 11 and 13 in Los Angeles. The speakers and topics provide a fairly strong indication of Microsoft's major themes for the conference.
Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, will serve the usual master of ceremonies role for the keynotes. On Monday, July 11, he'll open the conference with a "Celebrating Partners" keynote and on Wednesday, he'll start the last day of keynotes with a speech on "The Value of MPN." The second keynote is an interesting choice, given that partners at WPC tend to be among the most committed, but it points to the work Microsoft still faces in proving the value of the major overhaul to the former Microsoft Partner Program. The MPN keynote is also likely to produce a number of minor headlines on new partner readiness programs, incentives and competency changes.
Although Roskill played a major public role at WPC in 2010, he had just stepped into the job, previously held for many years by Allison Watson. The 2011 WPC will be Roskill's first at the helm for both the planning and execution of the conference.
Much of the news out of the show will come from CEO Steve Ballmer's opening keynote on Monday after Roskill opens the show. For now, Microsoft is coy about what Ballmer will talk about.
"Who better to deliver Microsoft's vision and commitment to partners than CEO Steve Ballmer! His keynote will highlight Microsoft innovation and business opportunities for partners," Microsoft's WPC site says. Fair enough. Tami Reller, corporate vice president and CFO of Windows & Windows Live, will join Ballmer to talk about Microsoft services and devices. Last year, Reller introduced Windows Intune during her WPC keynote.
Typically at WPC, Ballmer makes some announcements on themes that are fleshed out in Day 2. The Day 2 themes are Office 365, cloud computing, the Windows Phone platform and Windows devices, including slates.
The first Tuesday keynote is called "Winning with the Cloud." Three senior executives will present: Satya Nadella, president of the Servers and Tools Business, Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division, and Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president for Microsoft Business Solutions. Microsoft is telling attendees that they'll come away with a sense of Microsoft's cloud vision along with details of key cloud products, such as Azure, Windows Server, Office 365, Lync, Microsoft Dynamics and Windows Intune. With the Office 365 launch expected sometime this summer, WPC seems like the most logical scheduled venue. We'll see if the conference timing and the engineering cycle align.
The next Tuesday keynote is "A World of Smart Devices" with Andy Lees, president of the Mobile Communications Business, and Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president, OEM Division. Lees just finished previewing Windows Phone "Mango" in late May and is likely to recap some of the major advances coming in the fall update along with some previously unannounced elements among the 500 new features of the phone OS. Look for Guggenheimer to offer a guided tour through dozens of Windows-based smart devices from PCs to slates to TVs "and everything in between," according to the speech description. The big question is how much Guggenheimer will be able to say about slates and Microsoft's answer, if it has one, to the Apple iPad.
After Roskill's MPN keynote on Wednesday, Orlando Ayala, corporate vice president, chairman for Emerging Markets and chief advisor to the COO, will take the stage to talk about "National Priorities: Partnering to Strengthen the Local Economy."
Finally, COO Kevin Turner will give his usual closing keynote "Winning Together," in which he roasts the competition, exhorts partners to grab market share and provides new talking points about the benefits of Microsoft's products.
Microsoft is projecting that the 2011 WPC will be the company's biggest yet, with an expected 13,000 partner attendees, 2,000 press, industry analysts and Microsoft team members, including about 250 Microsoft executives.
UPDATE (6/2): I was worried I was going a little too far out on a limb to say Microsoft might talk about slates at WPC. In fact, I was way too conservative. Late on June 1 and early June 2, Microsoft unveiled its first public look at the super-secret "Windows 8" interface with its heavy slate focus. (We've already got some partner reactions here.) So, ahh, look for lots of Windows 8 discussions at WPC, too.
Posted by Scott Bekker on June 01, 2011