Well here we are at the WPC for the 3rd day, and after a warm-up from Allison Watson, who highlighted 5 partners with testimonials on how they used Microsoft technology to bring interesting solutions to their well-known clients, Steve Ballmer stormed the senses in typical style, opening with a scream as he stalked the perimeter of the stage at the Toyota Center like a caged tiger (a pretty good-sized one).
Of course, this is what the crowd and attendees have been waiting for, as Steve’s energy and enthusiasm rolled off the stage and up into the highest rows of seats. He really doesn’t need a microphone and amplifier…
After some preliminary thanks and the requisite report of how well Microsoft products did last fiscal year, Steve’s presentation focused squarely on Software Plus Services. What I found interesting but not surprising was Steve’s announcement of Microsoft’s initiative to build a completely web-based development platform, opening the door for more Microsoft applications to be Software Plus Services friendly, as well as allowing the ability for developers to develop on this web platform.
Steve went on to say that Microsoft is focusing on 4 primary areas:
- Consumer Internet
- Consumer Devices
Again, not surprising, but interesting when contrasted with some of Allison Watson’s "A-List" presentation yesterday, where she highlighted some of the Skunkworks-type development that goes on behind the doors of the mighty Microsoft, such as Microsoft Robotics (which demonstrated a small robot like many we’ve seen – think ASIMO, just much much smaller) which begs the question "who do partners sell that to?", and Microsoft’s cool Astronomy program, which is like a "Virtual Earth" for the Universe, leveraging the capabilities of the Hubble and other telescopes, but again begging questions of relevance to partners…
Steve closed the last half hour or so of his keynote by answering pre-submitted questions regarding key areas that highlighted his presentation, always seeming to have just the right spin on topics such as competition with partners through Software Plus Service, Cloud Computing and others.
Entertaining, Steve’s performance seemed to me weighted towards properly positioning Microsoft’s message to Partners worried about their future, as the organization makes the necessary move to S+S in order to remain relevant and competitive against contenders like Google.
In fact, I had several conversations with some key Microsoft folks here this week regarding the sensitivity that their S+S messaging must embody, and the 3 types of partners I thought would need to be addressed in very different ways:
- Partners fearful of Microsoft owning their client relationships as a result of purchasing S+S directly from Microsoft
- Partners mature enough in their businesses who realize they have built a strong enough business partnership with their clients that their relationships would not be in jeopardy (whether they sold Microsoft’s S+S directly from Microsoft, or from a Microsoft Hosting Partner, allowing them to private-label these services and bill for them directly)
- Hosting Partners
This is such a concern with some partners I’ve worked with that I’d like to hear your opinions, so please submit your comments.