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Microsoft channel chief outlines new cloud direction

Bing to be a big part of Microsoft's All-in cloud program

The term: “All-in” refers to the high-stakes poker card game Texas Hold’em where a player is willing to bet everything he or she has. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)is using the “All-in” slogan for its new cloud strategy, but the difference is its less risky for the channel and could potentially be very profitable.

Microsoft worldwide channel chief Allison Watson, spoke to more than 7,000 channel partners via Webcast to outline the new cloud opportunities with her company with Business Productivity Online Standard suite (BPOS).

“In many ways the cloud is a greenfield with upside in the trillions of dollars. The cloud is hear and now is the time to embrace what it is, to use it and talk to the customers about how Microsoft is positioned with your services to take them to the next level of the cloud,” she said.

Currently more than 7,000 channel partners have signed up for BPOS, while many customer adopting Windows Azure. These partners are performing more than 20,000 BPOS trials, but Watson tempered this momentum by saying there is a responsibility that comes with the great cloud opportunity.

“The cloud is taking off this year and it creates opportunity and responsibility. There will be a new range of innovation that will see new software investment to form new business models on commercial infrastructure that never existed before. But you need to protect the user and this is the responsibility part for the channel to make the cloud private and confidential. This will be a social, technical and innovation issue for them,” she said.

One of the key pillars of the Microsoft “All-in” cloud plan is Bing. Watson said that search has become a critical component of every solution. She said that there are 83 million Web sites one the planet and helping customers find what they actually need will be an ongoing challenge. “The question now becomes how can the cloud organically learn to drive better searches for appropriate actions. You don’t want a list of blue links anymore,” Watson said.

Bing, for example, with its new augmented reality maps integrates information seamless in the cloud and enables users to explore and decipher in a richer way. Watson cited solution provider ISC work with the City of Miami to illustrate how Bing can be used effectively in the cloud. The City of Miami wanted to track and report on non-emergency incidents and needed a cost-effective, scalable solution. ISC built a 311 app with Bing APIs that reduced costs, while delivering disaster recovery services that was necessary in this hurricane-prone region.

Watson also advised channel partners to embrace Microsoft Online Services.

She said that many small, mid-size and enterprise businesses have complicated address books making it hard to find the right person to speak to. Microsoft Online Services can help with this along with figuring out ways to prevent the double booking of boardrooms. Watson cited McDonald’s as an example.

McDonald’s has more than 31,000 restaurants, 1.5 million employees and 45 million customers and they chose cloud email from BPOS because of its user features.

According to Watson, the cloud wants smarter devices and browsers, GUIs and hardware all converging in the cloud. Referencing research from IDC, Watson added that by the end of this year there will be more than one billion mobiles and PCs accessing the Internet.

“Smart devices are more common place and they matter,” she said.“The cloud will drive server advances that in turn will drive the cloud either public or private. “Watson said that channel partners will be the ones who develop applications that run in any data centre, public cloud, private cloud, hosted environment or on-premise.

The choice will be up to the customer. Some of these cloud services will need unheard of scale and Microsoft is poised to support that with 700,000 sq.ft. data centres available in Chicago, Dublin, Ireland, Amsterdam, Singapore and other places.