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New Microsoft Canada channel chief outlines first priorities

Just days into his new job, the former Compugen exec says his top priority is meeting with - and listening to - Microsoft channel customers

Toronto –

Greg Larnder’s lightbulb moment – the one that clinched his decision tobecome channel chief at Microsoft Canada – happened as he watched his kids playing with an Xbox.

At that same moment, he turned on a Windows 8 Phone.

“It was opening up that phone and seeing the same screen” as the onehis kids saw when they fired up their Xbox, Larnder said at Microsoft’sWorldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto on Wednesday.

The fact that both devices shared the same start screen brought homefor Lardner the fact that Microsoft’s new Windows 8 OS will extend thesame user interface and capabilities across many devices in both theconsumer and enterprise spaces. And with so many new Microsoft productreleasesor refreshes this year, the 27-year channel veteran saw this as anopportune time to join the Microsoft channel team.

“There’s no one piece. It’s the entire (Microsoft) spectrum from thedevice to the data centre,” Larnder said. “Microsoft has the portfolioand it’s a good portfolio.”

Just days into his new job,Larnder said his top priority right now isto connect with Microsoft’s customers on the ground level.

“(I’ll be) talking to our customers in the channel. Let me see whattheyhave to say. (I want) to do as much as I can to listen.”

A new hyper competitiveness
Larnder said this is the first time he’s ever reported to a channelchief who actually worked in the channel himself, a factor that he saidwill help both him and Microsoft’s partners as he eases into his newjob.  He’s referring to one of his new bosses, Neil Tanner -Microsoft’s VP of small business, midmarket solutions and partners -who at one point ran his own partner business for seven years. Larnderis looking forward to using his own 27-year history within the channelto help Microsoft partners.

“What I can bring is a deep, deep understanding of what they have tolive through … and bring that back into Microsoft,” Larnder said.

This early on in his new role, Larnder said he’s surprised by how manyMicrosoft partners are “partnering together … as opposed to (competing)against one another.”

Larnder didn’t take the decision to join Microsoft lightly; he’s beenwith Compugen for 10 years. Though itwas difficult toleave his job as vice-president of central Canada sales and businessdevelopment at Compugen (“I’ve been to weddings in Harry’s family,”Larnder told me ruefully, referring to Compugen CEO Harry Zarek) hefeels he’s leaving Compugen while it’s in great shape.

At Compugen, Larnder managed the sales and P&L for Compugen’sOntario business, representing 50 per cent of the company’s revenues.Healso managed sales strategy for key national accounts and strategicopportunities with key vendor partners.

There were other reasons that motivated Larnder to move to Microsoft:he’salways wanted to work for a publicly traded multinational (somethingthat was still on his bucket list as he recently turned 50), he’sexcited to help Microsoft tackle the consumerization of IT, and hesenses a new aggressive spirit at Microsoft that he wants to be a partof.

“There’s a change in (Microsoft’s) approach. I started seeing hypercompetitiveness.”

Tanner stressed, however, that Microsoft wants to avoid any perception of hyper competitiveness with Compugen in luring Larnder away after a decade there, saying that Microsoft wanted to make sure the move to hire Larnder was “okay for Compugen,” not just just a great move for Larnder and Microsoft.

Christine WongChristineWong is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca and CDN. E-mail her at cwong@itbusiness.ca,connect on ,follow her on Twitter,and join in the conversation on the IT BusinessFacebook Page.