Toronto – Microsoft channel partners must getaggressive and stop playing defenseagainst the competitive assault they face from Apple, Google and otherrivals in the coming year, the company’s chief operating officer told its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto on Wednesday.
Rather than “playing not to lose” more business to Apple, Google,Oracle and IBM, Microsoft’s partners have to make a proactive push towin more business in 2013, COO Kevin Turner said in a morning keynoteaddress to over 16,000 partners from around the world.
“Get aggressive. Drive and own that customer agenda,” Turner said,referring specifically to Microsoft’s Office 365 offerings. “There areno victims in this space. We have to win this every single time.”
Partners overall have been servicing accounts and waiting too often forcustomers to ask questions about new products, Turner said. The timehas come for partners to take the lead and promote new releases moreactively with existing customers, he said.
“We’ve been grinding it out and doing a great job,” Turner said. “InFY13 we have to rethink the approach.”
Every single Microsoft product line is being refreshed or relaunched in2013 – including Office, Bing, Kinect, Windows OS and Windows Phone -giving partners a channel opportunity that is unprecedented in thehistory of the company, Turner said.
“It’s the largest single release cycle in our history,” Turner said.
But he said partners should focus on two key areas in 2013: theupcoming Windows 8 OS and apps builtaround it, and Microsoft’s Office365 and cloud offerings. The Microsoft channel should position Windows8 as an operating system that provides users with the ability to moveseamlessly between more interface options – including touch, pen,keyboard and mouse – than the touch interface offered by Apple, whichis launching its new Mountain Lion OSX.
“Apple makes great hardware,” Turner said. “But in the OS space we seethings differently.”
Apple “has it wrong” when it declares today as the post-PC era, Turnersaid.
“We actually believe Windows 8 is the new era of PC plus,” he said.“For the first time ever, we will have the same user interface on thesmartphone, the tablet, the slate, the laptop, the desktop and even onthe television…It’s a huge deal.”
He urged partners to get any customers still on Windows XP (which isbeing put out to pasture as of next April) or Windows 7 to migrate toWindows 8, calling it “a $12-billion opportunity for our partners.”
As for Office 365 and cloud, Microsoft isalready making headway onthat front. Its cloud revenues are up by more than 100 per cent in thepast year. Although much of the initial hype around cloud has settleddown in the past 12 months, Turner reaffirmed Microsoft’s commitment tocloud, saying the company wants to connect “every single person on theplanet” to the cloud.
Turner conceded Microsoft is under heavy competitive pressure fromGoogle in the cloud space for everything from storage and collaborationto business apps.
“Make no mistake. Google is out there pitching our (enterprise cloud)customers,” he said.
What differentiates Microsoft’s cloud approach is that it’s flexible,Turner said.
“We help our customers build a cloud on their terms. We don’t push themto our cloud or anybody else’s. It’s an important differentiator.”
Partners can also push back against Google by touting Office 365 tocustomers and showing them Microsoft’s cloud-based offerings arecheaper and more secure than Google’s and other competitors’, Turnersaid. He cited a recent study showing Microsoft suffered the fewestnumber of security vulnerabilities last year compared to Apple, Oracleand Google. He also took Google to task for a slew of privacyinvestigations, saying “people are tired of them illegally collectinginformation” for targeted ads.
Consumerization of IT is also topof mind for Turner. Noting that hegets more partner queries about it than any other issue these days, hesaid Microsoft will open more retail stores and pop-up stores nextyear, including an unspecified number here in Canada.
“A very significant ad campaign coming out this year” will helppartners promote Windows 8 directly to consumers, Turner said.
Echoing a similar mantra coming out of Research in Motion lately,Turner said Microsoft’s overall business in emerging markets is growingat two times the rate of its developed markets.