As the kickoff for Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 approaches, here are some questions Microsoft partners would love Steve Ballmer, Bob Muglia et al.
#1: Why should partners go for the Microsoft Partner Network’s “advanced” badge?
The zillion dollar question this week is: “Why should we keep selling Microsoft stuff?”
Many Microsoft Gold partners beef that the price of keeping their top-tier designation is going up at a time when they’re still gasping from the recession.
Microsoft has always touted its partner ecosystem. It has also always touted low-cost volume software. Those two concepts can be contradictory. There’s just not a lot of margin selling this software outright–but many VARs still rely on margin from product sales to fund their more profitable services work.
Going to the new “advanced” level requires a higher investment and a lot more paperwork. Will it be worth it? “Too soon to tell,” said one current Gold partner exec who is working on her advanced badge.
#2: What’s up with Azure?
It’s not that people don’t believe Microsoft’s claims of 10,000 Azure customers. It’s just that the number ain’t all that high, given the investment and hype around Azure. And given the belief that many of these customers are one-off tire kickers. VARs said Microsoft needs to fix the pricing model, which is confusing to the point of incomprehensibility.
It also needs to clear up nagging questions about what’s under the covers with Azure while more companies deploy real applications and conduct real transactions on Amazon Web Services. It won’t help for Microsoft to explain that the Azure/AWS comparison is apples and kumquats. That would only remind app dev shops that AWS offers a choice not only of development tools but of operating systems. Oh, and if they want to deploy on AWS now and move to on-premises later, that’s a viable and supported option. Not so clear with Azure.
Check out the Azure primer Ray Wang published.
#3: When will Microsoft sync up cloud apps with their on-prem versions?
Customers may buy into BPOS now but once they realize that the features they use in Exchange and SharePoint aren’t necessarily a given in BPOS there’s a lot of potential unpleasantness, VARs say.
#4: Where’s Ray Ozzie?
The perception is that since Microsoft put Azure under Bob Muglia late last year, Microsoft’s chief strategist Ray Ozzie is MIA. Worse: that he was pushed aside. If true, that’s an odd fate for Bill Gates’ hand-picked strategy go-to guy. Ozzie is ostensibly working on social netty stuff, but really, where IS he? Microsoft continues to operate as (to steal one of its overused phrases) a bunch of pillars vs. a company with a shared vision so many thought Ozzie’s position was weak early on because none of the heads of the cash-cow product groups reported to Ozzie. And politics at that company is a blood sport.
#5: Has the Google obsession paid off?
One could argue that Microsoft now fields credible online services thanks to its execs’ paranoia about the Google threat. The Google specter shook the company into realizing if it doesn’t get with the cloud program its Office franchise will melt away anyway. This way at least the company can capture some of those people. Oddly, given teh Kin phone snafu and the company’s continuing confusing phone story, the Apple obsession hasn’t helped much.
#6: Bonus: what will BPOS become?
Folks hate the name “BPOS.” More importantly, one person in particular–Steve Ballmer–hates the name and has ordered a new one. What will it be?