Microsoft Canada’s 12 month plan

Denver — Most of the main announcements made at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, such as Software+Services, Office Live, CRM Live, Office Communications 2007 and others, will have a Canadian debut, according to Microsoft Canada executives.

Lora Gernon, Canadian channel director, said she has already briefed the more than 300 partners from Canada attending the conference about the subsidiary’s main priorities for its next fiscal year.

“(We’re) making some big bets on where we are planning to invest in the next 12 months. I wanted to give it to them so they know where to engage and build demand generation,” Gernon said.

One of the main announcements the Canadian office is still working on is Office Live and the subsequent partner program.

“We are still having discussions with Bell/Sympatico on the rollout here,” said Eric Gales, head of SMS at Microsoft Canada. “The intent is to have a global footprint. There is no time line, but it is coming to Canada.”

Globally, at the partner conference Microsoft unveiled a new partner program to take advantage of the release of Office Live. According to the company, the program is intended to help channel partners get direct access to software as a service offerings and, in some cases, a hybrid scenario where there is a on-premise solution mixed with online application access.

Allison Watson, Microsoft’s channel chief, said during her keynote address that SaaS is a hard-to-reach market and Microsoft wants to open doors for partners.

The program includes Office Live Marketplace, which allows developers to market their solutions and services to more than 400,000 existing customers and prospects. Currently, there are 50 offerings in the marketplace.

Another element of the program is Office Live Affiliate Network Pilot. This allows small business specialist partners, certified partners and gold partners to share in Office Live subscription revenue and advertising spending by referring new customers.

The other big bets will be the server portfolio launch Microsoft has guaranteed for Feb. 27 of next year, along with Office Communications 2007, the company’s unified communications offering, Forefront for security, CRM Live and Dynamics AX.

Joel Martin, an analyst with IDC Canada, said the Microsoft message to the channel is very clear and Canadians should know about the three tier channel of on-premise, hybrid and hosted with the Software+Services plan.

Unified communications will also be a huge launch event in Canada, Gales said.

“The time has arrived to link all forms of communications together, and with the rate of adoption with instant messaging, for example, it can be an asset in the enterprise world. We need to get to people in real time, without e-mail, whether we are on the road or in a private place,” Gales added.

Martin agreed, saying IDC’s forecast of the unified communications market in Canada could be described in one word: “huge.”

Gales said that Microsoft will take a left to right view for the Canadian market, with unified communications starting from the mobile smart phones and laptops to cloud based services that are on-premise or hosted.

“We will pull those threads together using the same tool set. Unified communications is a huge opportunity with many benefits and it directly impacts people. We are going after that in 2008,” Gales said.

In the security space, Microsoft announced it will make a US$50 million investment in marketing the Forefront product line.

Gernon did not have a figure for how much the subsidiary would contribute to the US$50 million marketing investment, but added the Canadian team’s biggest challenge in this area is one of perception.

Gales concurred, saying the Forefront products are here and more will be coming, but the marketing investment will go beyond simple product marketing.

“To realize the potential of this technology it has to be built on a secure infrastructure; full stop. We think there is a huge market on the infrastructure side and security is a big component in that area. We have to change the perception because we are not best known as a security player in the market. It will also be about changing the perception of the partners,” Gales said.

Microsoft Canada will be spending about $2 million on a partner outreach program linked to the Feb. 27, 2008 launch of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. Gernon confirmed there will be a Canadian launch event on that date with many special guests being lined up.

Following that will be a tour to all the regions of Canada to enable channel partners and to make customers aware of the new products.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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