8 min read

Microsoft’s mile high partner conference, minute by minute

CDN editor Paolo Del Nibletto takes you inside day one in Denver, from Allison Watson to Tom Cochrane and everything in between

8:30 A.M.: Well, its day one of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference and the only thought in my mind as I watch a video of channel chief Allison Watson riding a horse is can she actually ride? Well, the answer is yes. Watson is from Oklahoma, but she hasn’t been on a horse in 20 years.

8:34 A.M.: The same rock band that played when this show was in Toronto three years ago is on stage singing lyrics such as “time has arrived”; “show me the way”; “got to do better’; and “closer than I have ever been”. I wonder if these messages sink into the partner’s minds.

8:38 A.M.: Watson is on stage wearing the same cowboy outfit she was wearing in the video. She says that Colorado has important services and technology corridors and that 10,000 people from 40 countries are attending the conference, while 50,000 people are viewing online. She says this is a true global ecosystem.

Watson has three key objectives for this conference: value, compete to win and partner profitability.

Watson believes she has the best job at Microsoft and I can see why. But, as a channel advocate I am biased too.

She reports that it’s been a record year with Vista and Office, with 40 million new PCs in the market as a direct result of these two products.

8:42 A.M.: Luna Shamsuddoha, the chairman of Dohatec, a gold partner from Bangladesh, is on the video screen. She tells her story of designing a national voter registration and identification system for her country. Bangladesh is wrought with voter fraud and many of its citizens have never seen a computer. Talk about a challenge.

By partnering with Trestle Group, which helps female entrepreneurs around the world, and Voice for Innovation, Dohatec was able to create and deliver this new voting system for Bangladesh.

I’ve got to tell you this was an amazing story considering that a woman is behind this solution that I am guessing, since I am not that familiar with Bangladesh government, a lot of incumbents did not want.

8:45 A.M.: Watson reads a letter from Jim Beebe, the president of Ascentium, a Washington-based gold partner. Beebe says in his letter that he has 500 per cent growth and while that is great for him, this letter is simply not compelling considering it is following the previous video about a solution that will inevitably change people’s lives in Bangladesh.

8:49 A.M.: A photo of Per Werngren, the president of IAMCP, a Swede I played golf with while the conference was in Toronto a few years ago, hits the screen. He is a horrible golfer, but with partner-to-partner exchange business leads have increased by five per cent.

8:50 A.M.: Watson asks the audience to shake hands with people around them. I was thinking am I in a church? The eWeek reporter in front of me does not participate. I shake around six people’s hands but I only remember Ellen, the first person I met.

8: 53 A.M.: Watson says she has to do more to ensure partner profitability. There are nine new blueprints for competencies and solutions that can be measured with peers in partner’s local areas. There are also new online tools for benchmarking profitability. Watson then leaves the stage.

8:54 A.M.: Linda Conley of EMC is on the video screen introducing the next speaker Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO. He runs out shouting “good morning”. He thanks the 8,000 partners from 138 countries. I thought it was 10,000 from 40 countries?

8: 56 A.M.: Turner says he has circled the world six times in the last 22 months doing partner roundtables so that he could get feedback from partners. Do you think he is putting in a purchase order for HP Halo or Cisco Telepresence when he gets back to his office?

8:59 A.M.: He says that Vista will bring more than US$300 billion of channel opportunity in 2008.

There are 10,000 devices that carry a Vista logo and there are 19,000 applications that have been converted to Vista.

Office 2007-based solutions from partners increased 10 times over Office 2003.

Exchange Server 2007 has displaced 2.5 million Lotus Notes seats, Turner said. The goal for next year is four million seats. He credits a better monetization model for partners as the main reason why customers are switching over to Exchange. IBM can’t be happy about that.

9:07 A.M.: Turner grades himself a C for providing a clear roadmap for partners, which was one of his goals from last year. He said it is hard exercise to do, but the company needs to follow up and tie a roadmap back to partner profitability.

He gave himself another C on not being able to consistently implement Partner Account Managers (PAM) across all subsidiaries.

9:10 A.M.: Turner pronounces Windows win-daahze.

9:12 A.M.: Brad Wilson, the GM of Dynamics CRM is out on stage.

He wastes no time in going after Salesforce.com and Seibel online and announces he is cutting prices from US$75 per month to US$59. Professional users get a bigger discount at US$44 per month.

9:25 A.M.: If you ever wanted to know how powerful Microsoft is, they have eight different partner types. More than 600,000 partners selling products to 160 million customers. Their size is a competitive advantage.

9: 37 A.M.: Turner is back and he says that all country managers will be measured on their support of the partner ecosystem. There will be a partner scorecard and he will hold teams accountable for making partners successful and they need to increase revenue. Strong words for sure from Turner and I wonder if Phil Sorgen, the country manager for Canada, is worried about making his bonus.

9:39 A.M.: Turner reveals his hit list. He says that Microsoft will compete to win against Novell, Apple, Red Hat, Symantec, Linux, Google, Salesforce.com, Sun, Oracle, IBM and even Cisco. “We will bump into these foes and we are tough minded and we’ll compete to earn the business fairly and respectfully,” Turner said.

9:44 A.M.: Turner reveals his telephone number and email address. They are: 1-425-705-1101 and Kevin.turner(at)microsoft.com. “I have Windows mobile at all times and I am available to you around the clock.”

9:50 A.M.: Break time and there is a slide on the screen thanking HP and Symantec as sponsors. I wonder how Symantec feels about sponsoring a company that has just announced at its conference it wants to compete and take market share away from them.

I decide to start working on my first story from conference and the Van Morrison tune Real, Real Gone plays on the sound system. What a great song and what a great singer he is.

10:25 A.M.: Chris Capossela, the corporate vice-president of information workers at Microsoft comes out. He is the main Office cheerleader at the company.

He puts up a slide of top partners and it is very crowded, but I notice one Canadian company, Habanero. One of the more curious partner names was Interprom. I do not know exactly what they do, but from their name they might have built a business from proms. Let’s face it, Grade 8 grads are having huge proms these days and who knows, this could be a growing business that is similar to weddings.

10: 27 A.M.: Capossela creates another acronym: OBAs (pronounced ohbahs) or office business applications. Now, that was something we really did not need in our lives.

10:35 A.M.: They announce Office Communications 2007, Microsoft’s venture into unified communications and VoIP.

After a quick demo where the users were talking to each other with old handsets a guy in the back starts to clap as loud as he or she could to be heard. That was very unnecessary.

The old phones were by design because Microsoft wanted to illustrate that the offer can be used on existing phone systems. No need to rip and replace.

11 A.M.: Capossella wraps up and he is a really fast talker. It felt like he had to finish on time or else…

He is replaced on stage by Mike Sievert, the corporate vice-president of Windows business group.

He doesn’t say much, but he did have two interesting facts.

The first was that in 2005; about 600,000 laptops were stolen or lost in U.S. alone. The second is that PC piracy is at 35 per cent and more than 60 million PCs that ship each year with non-genuine Windows. He says the industry looses US$39 billion because of this.

I hate reporting this number because it is a soft number. There is no way to tell that those thieves would have purchased Microsoft, Symantec, Autodesk or any other legit software.

11:30 A.M.: The star of the show, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, runs on stage and quickly departs the stage for the show floor to shake hands and do high fives. He talks as loud as a Marshall speaker saying: “You guys energize me and thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

11:34 A.M.: Ballmer admits he sounds like a broken record, but his favourite thing to do is meet with partners. I have to say I feel the same way when I talk to channel partners.

11:35 A.M.: Maybe it is just me but Ballmer is incredibly loud. His voice echoes through the hall.

11: 39 A.M.: Ballmer is not a one-year-out type of visionary, but a five-to-seven year into the future, big picture guy.

He believes Microsoft’s change will transform the industry.

Ballmer told a story of a group meeting of tactical and marketing staffers at Microsoft that created a list of 70 important innovations for the future. Innovations for reading, watching TV, voice, natural language, the data centre and getting handwriting onto the PC.

He added that this is an ambitious project for the company. Ballmer is serious about fulfilling Microsoft’s role to drive a new model of computation. And, with potentially 70 technology breakthroughs coming in the next five to seven years I think it is safe to say that Microsoft will be on the tip of everyone’s tongues in IT for some time to come.

12:05 P.M.: It is lunch time for conference goers and a business opportunity for the exotic dancers at the nearby La Boheme club. Several of these ladies walk the short distance from the club, if you want to call it that, to the Colorado Convention Center grounds to introduce themselves to the many men at the Worldwide Partner Conference.

12:15 P.M.: I am on the run to get to the Bravo restaurant for a lunch meeting with Erin Elofson and David Rouse of Microsoft Canada. Also at this meeting is Harry Zarek of Compugen, Kevin Restivo of the Seaboard Group and Evan Zaleschuk, director of collaboration technology at MTS Allstream.

12:30 P.M.: I get there on time and it ended up being a great discussion on Microsoft’s unified communications play and what it means to the channel. The food was excellent as well.

4:00 P.M.: I am in a roundtable discussion with Microsoft’s channel chief Allison Watson. Her assistant or PR practitioner comes and says she will be late.

4:10 P.M.: Watson arrives with a big smile on her face and she reiterates she has the best job at Microsoft. The roundtable is made up of journalists from Europe and the only one with English as his or her first language besides me is the reporter from the Irish Technology Times.

We ask the first two questions to Watson and then there is this long silence. I had several other questions but I want to be respectful to other people’s time.

Someone who I think is from Germany asks Watson something. I could not understand him at all, but Watson did as she had a long answer to his question.

More silence comes and some awkward smiles from me and Watson.

So, since no one is asking questions I decided to ask a question. Watson answered it and it is followed with some more awkward silence.

Watson then waves her hand towards me and said just go on with your questions. So it turned into a one-on-one interview session with an audience.

More questions did come from the field and I was glad for that.

5:00 P.M.: I walk out of the meeting room and bump into Allison Watson. I thanked her for her time and she returned the thanks for all of my questions. Then Watson tells me that she framed and hung in her office a copy of CDN with her on the cover when she was in Toronto.

I have to say I was honoured.

6:30 P.M.: It is dinner time at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Joel Martin of IDC, Brian Bourne and Robert Buren of CMS Consulting, Carol Terentiak and Derrick Wong of Microsoft Canada, and Ralph Loewen and Donald Bauer of ITergy. The big debate this night was over the Cowboy Ribeye steak. Martin ordered that steak, but I think my T-bone was a bit bigger. Martin admits that it was bigger, but not better.

9:10 P.M.: We arrive at the Vinyl Lounge for the Canadian partner party featuring Tom Cochrane.

A lot of great channel executives were on hand such as Mike Gazdic of Ingram Micro Canada, Todd Irie of Nexinnovations, Harry Zarek of Compugen, Brian Bourne, Robert Buren and Derek Cullen of CMS, Irene Buchan of Tech Data Canada, Mark Steiman, former Tech Data Canada and 3Soft executive, Karen Brodie and Barb Cummings of Brodie Computes, and Fab DiCarlantonio of Cactus Commerce.

Almost every channel partner I spoke to this night said that whomever (Carol Terentiak) hired Tom Cochrane should get a promotion. Cochrane was fantastic and his music resonated with the audience better than any other concert I have attended during my travels covering the IT channel.

Cochrane reveals that hockey superstar Mark Messier believes the song Big League was about him. Cochrane said that while Big League is based on a true story it is for everyone kid and parent who want to play hockey in Canada or baseball and football in the United States.

Comment: cdnedit@itbusiness.ca