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Next-Generation Microsoft Action Pack Arrives

The latest era in the Action Pack saga began this week.

Microsoft formally changed to one Action Pack in this generation from the previous version, which had been split into two offerings: Action Pack Solution Provider (APSP) and Action Pack Developer & Design (APD&D).

Now partners will simply subscribe to the Action Pack and select any of six Resource Centers for specific benefits. The Resource Centers are Professional Services, Reselling, Application Design and Development, Managed Services, Hosting, or Device Design and Development.

"There is now one universal subscription with more flexibility to explore and leverage resources across business models. Six Resource Centers have been created based on our partner community's core value delivery models -- choose one, many, or all at no additional cost or administrative hassle," said Julie Bennani, general manager of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), in a blog post.

The basic benefits remain the same -- internal use rights of products like Windows 8 and Windows Server, access to developer tools, support, advisory hours and training. Changes include Bing credits and the integration of internal use rights (IURs) for cloud services, such as Office 365, Windows Intune and Dynamics CRM Online.

Microsoft communicated the Action Pack changes last year and has stuck to those plans for Action Pack, even as many other planned changes to the MPN announced at the same time have been canceled or delayed. The only detail left out until last month was pricing, which Microsoft revealed in late January would be a hike of 11 percent for APD&D subscribers and 44 percent for APSP subscribers.

As a pocket of small business-focused partners, the Action Pack is one of the most popular areas of Microsoft's channel program. Many of these partners have expressed a general sense that Microsoft is growing less supportive of small business-focused partners and point for evidence to the Action Pack price hike among other changes, such as the elimination of TechNet subscriptions, the retirement of Windows Small Business Server and a perceived large-partner orientation in the MPN in general.

Announcing the rollout of the new Action Pack this week, Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, emphasized that SMB-focused partners remain critical to Microsoft.

"In the news we hear a lot about billion dollar companies doing big business with other billion dollar companies. But for the millions of Microsoft customers who need help with their small to medium-size business, smaller partners are often their unsung heroes," Sorgen wrote on his Channel Chief blog. "With so many technology choices facing SMBs, partners bring relevant business solutions to life for customers around the world, and in many ways you make those solutions better. Our many smaller partners make the Microsoft partner ecosystem the most robust and active in the industry."

Sorgen and Bennani both sought to soften the blow of the price hike by putting it in different contexts. Sorgen noted, "In the United States the cost of Microsoft Action Pack is $475 and offers partners resources and benefits that can reach over $40,000 USD in value. That includes cloud IURs, earnable advisory hours and a variety of support and training."

Bennani put the cost in opportunity terms: "Microsoft Action Pack subscribers earn 3X more revenue than Network Members given they engage with more resources we provide and are more committed to Microsoft."

Look for a more detailed breakdown of the Action Pack changes and opportunities that are included in the benefits in an upcoming issue of Redmond Channel Partner magazine. Not a subscriber? Sign up here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 26, 2014