Microsoft’s Jon Roskill: I’m not Allison Watson, and I won’t try to be

Washington, D.C. – Probably the most important thing Jon Roskill, Microsoft Corp.‘s (NASDAQ: MSFT) new channel chief, told CDN is that he’s not Allison Watson, nor does he want to be the former channel chief.

Roskill, in an interview at the Worldwide Partner Conference, said he’s fully aware of Watson’s long list of accomplishments and that he is looking forward to the enormous challenge in front of him.

Roskill didn’t have much time to ease into the role. He announced new program changes to the Microsoft Partner Network and even had to prepare for live interview with former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

CDN editor Paolo Del Nibletto sat down with Roskill to discuss the new program changes, the company’s cloud strategy, and his channel philosophy.

The following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: How do the new program changes align to the opportunity with the cloud?

Jon Roskill: It’s hugely aligned. Essentials Tools is really about easy activation for those in the Partner Network. Hundreds of thousands of partners can add on the Essentials Pack and all the rich set of components with training, business enablement, sales, internal use rights, access to other tools and portals. I think it’s fantastic. I would like to err towards simplicity, and if it doesn’t make sense to me it will probably not make sense to a partner. If I put my partner shoes on, I wanted to get at this right now.

The second part is our Accelerator brand and that was built it through a set of 50 or so partners, partners who are in the forefront of the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). We can now go deep with managed partners to unmanaged partners and help them go after it and they’ll have a badge that will differentiate themselves. That’s quite valuable, and we have more stringent requirements around that.

CDN Now: What’s your channel philosophy?

J.R.: It’s a broad one. The Microsoft Partner Network essentially is the ying to the yang of Microsoft, and they have to exist together. About 95 per cent-plus of our revenue goes through the channel. As we go through this transition we have to figure out how to bring the partners along with it. It’s my philosophy to enable the partners by giving them the tools and the programs for success. Honestly, I look at it as a core differentiator and I think this defines us in the software industry. Our success comes from the channel and we can’t forget that.

CDN Now: Is Microsoft going to change the name of BPOS?

J.R.: When we look at BPOS, it’s not the most attractive brand in the SMB. I did something funny with a marketing activity for BPOS online. I said, let’s put out a cheaper business e-mail from Microsoft instead of BPOS. I wanted to see what would happen. I thought it would poll better, but it did just a little bit better. It didn’t blow it away like I thought. Clearly as we expand, the brand should do better to note what it is. If you walk into a car dealership in Nantucket, would they want Business Productivity Online suite or an online suite of business solutions, and brand it like that. We’re exploring things in that area, but we’re not announcing anything today.

Allison Watson

CDN Now: Is Microsoft going to open up more retail stores than the four you have today. and what are the Canadian plans?

J.R.: Our vision is not to open up hundreds of stores. We want it more as a showcase of what we can do with our partners, that’s number one. Number two, we have been upfront with folks who have channel conflict concerns. Especially with Best Buy who has been a tremendous partner for us. What we’re doing in terms of putting a store in Toronto, I’ll have to get back to you on that.

We’re not trying to go head-to-head with Apple in retail and create thousands of stores, or be like a Burger King next to McDonald’s, or have a situation similar to Starbucks and have three locations on four corners. You question how good is that, but apparently for Starbucks they do well. I’m not a retail guy, even though I did a bunch of work with Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot in moving Windows 7 machines and Office. But this is a different space.

CDN Now: Microsoft Financing in the channel has gotten mixed reviews from partners, which is surprising considering the recent downturn in the economy. Is this going to be a priority for you as channel chief?

J.R.: I think it’s a good thing to drill in on more. I worked with the financing guys (when I ran) operations and marketing. They came to me to get more connected and I looked at some of the stuff they’ve done. You know, the most profitable part of GE is the financing part, and it’s highly profitable. Steve Ballmer made it clear we’re not trying to create the bank of Microsoft. I want to enable the channel and we’ll look at all things to be aggressive with hardware, services and software with financing. We could have just done software and leave the rest to the partner, but we haven’t done a good enough job of marketing the financing.

CDN Now: How are you going to replace Allison Watson?

J.R.: Coming into this, the first part is getting through this conference and I feel good about what I’ve done so far, and that’s because of the team around me, which is the team that was around Allison. The team is tremendous and it’s still in place. They’re getting me ramped-up and the people I have met so far have been very polite and accepting of me here. I’m not Allison, and I won’t try to be Allison. I need to be Jon Roskill, and I have a different set of strengths. We both have strengths. I’ll try hard to listen, and I think a lot of companies don’t do a good job of that. I want to sit down and understand it and then figure out what do next, but clearly the cloud is it and we are fired up about it.

Follow Paolo Del Nibletto on Twitter: @PaoloCDN.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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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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