Channel sees profit opportunity with Microsoft Office 2010

Hot on the heels of last year’s launch of Windows 7, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) is hoping the launch of Office 2010 gives its channel partners a compelling case to pitch a double upgrade, and a wider IT refresh, to their customers.

Windows 7 launched last year (view CDN’s launch event slideshow) with many customer having decided to skip Windows Vista and stick with Windows XP. The economic downturn also led many organizations to delay needed hardware refreshes. Now, with the launch of Office 2010 in June, Microsoft’s first office suite refresh since Office 2007, the opportunity may be there for the channel to help organizations re-evaluate their IT needs and modernize their systems by doing a hardware, OS and productivity upgrade all at once.

Jason Brommet, senior product marketing manager at Microsoft Canada, at an eight-stop tour just after the Office launch with the Microsoft Canada partner team, talking with partners about the launch of Office, SharePoint and Visio, and the opportunities they present.

“The excitement within the partner community right now is incredible,” said Brommet, adding they’re encouraging partners to look at the opportunities in different markets, take a look at the platform and internalize the play by demonstrating best practices in-house.

“It’s a great time for customers to upgrade now, with Windows 7 and the PC refresh cycle. There’s a great opportunity to go out to your install base,” said Brommet. “A disproportionate amount of businesses are still running Exchange 2003, Office 2003 and Windows XP, and it’s time for those organizations to think about moving.”

On the software side, Brommet said supportability will be motivating customers to consider moves. Most of those products are north of six years old, and Microsoft’s standard support will soon be coming to an end. He added customers will also be ready to consider s hardware refresh, and they’ll want to get more out of their hardware.

“With the economy returning there’s a great opportunity for partners to sell both new hardware and new licenses and attach integration services,” he said.

New hardware, he noted, enables new scenarios such as 64-bit architecture, as well as supporting new end-user devices. Businesses are transitioning from desktops to laptops to support newly mobile workforces, and he said customers running older technologies are limited in the new capabilities and features they can deliver to end-users, such as unified communications.

“It’s an opportunity for partners to focus on implementation services and have wider conversations with their clients,” said Brommet. “And on the development side, we’re unlocking the development platform for partners to build solutions on top of, like SharePoint, with open APIs and underlying services to extend line of business applications.”

Many organizations are actually licensed for the new software but have chosen not to deploy it, and Brommet said his message to the channel is deploy, deploy, deploy. Partners need to be using the technology themselves, and have conversations with customers about delivering business value.

“There are also still a lot of greenfield for partners in the enterprise space to retire third-party outdated apps; it’s a services opportunity with a huge amount of money to be made,” said Brommet. “Far too many Canadian organizations are still in a premature stage about how they manage their IT infrastructure. With the release of Windows 7 and Office 2010 we’ve done lots of work around deployment scenarios, and there’s excitement around virtualization.”

Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft partner Envision IT has built-up a strong SharePoint practice. Envision president Peter Carson said his customers are excited about 2010, adding Envision worked with Microsoft closely for six to seven months before the launch and is now building-out new sites with 2010 for clients such as a board of directors portal for the Cancer Foundation of Ontario, which is upgrading its Intranet from SharePoint 2007 to 2010.

There’s not one big thing that sets 2007 apart from 2010, said Carson. Rather, it’s a lot of little things.

“Architecturally, the structure and foundation are very similar. Microsoft has done a tremendous amount of incremental improvement throughout the product,” said Carson. “A lot of us got used to the ribbon, and it’s now baked into SharePoint 2010 in the browser so if you’re familiar, it will be an easy transition from Word to SharePoint designing your public Web site.”

The user experience is much improved, said Carson, noting tasks can be accomplished in far fewer clicks, and the use of Ajax makes it more interactive. Meta data can be more easily modified as well.

The motivation to upgrade will depend in the needs of each client, said Carson.

For some, the ability to integrate with business intelligence and PerformancePoint and have improved connectivity to backend systems is compelling. For others, the Canadian multilingual support will be a big driver.

Envision is encouraging partners to leverage the vouchers for services from partners that customers get from Microsoft as part of their license purchases, including for 2010 planning services. The vendor will pay for a partner such as Envision to come in and help the client evaluate their current implementation and set a roadmap to migrating to 2010.

“Some clients may not be ready to jump to 2010 today, but they don’t want to do anything today to prevent that in the future,” said Carson.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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