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Microsoft WPC16: 10 Partner Moves to Watch

As Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 (WPC16) kicks off this week in Toronto, here are 10 business and technology inflection points that channel partners need to track.

gavriella schuster

Gavriella Schuster

1. New Channel Chief: Microsoft has officially promoted Gavriella Schuster into the global channel leadership position, succeeding Phil Sorgen (who shifts to a new position in the company). Schuster has worked in and around Microsoft’s channel partner ecosystem for more than two decades. Translation: She’s no stranger to partner business model evolutions. During a June 2016 podcast with ChannelE2E and CompTIA, Schuster described Microsoft’s partner progress with cloud solutions providers. At the partner conference, she’ll take center stage during a keynote.

Judson-Althoff

Judson Althoff

2. Meet Judson Althoff (Again): Oracle’s former channel chief, Judson Althoff, exited the database giant in March 2013 and joined Microsoft as president of North America. Now, he’s shifting to executive VP, worldwide commercial business. He’s also undergone a bit of an image makeover. At Oracle, his image reflected that of Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd — a classic Fortune 500 leader. At Microsoft, his image more closely resembles that of a technologist. And yes, Althoff knows tech. Don’t overlook the fact that he has deep embedded and IoT experience from his days at Oracle — which could help to shape Microsoft’s IoT commercial strategy, ChannelE2E believes.

3. New Microsoft Business App Store: Microsoft will surely share more details on AppSource — a business app store that allows customers to search for applications by category, industry or product. Rewind to December 2015, and ChannelE2E noticed that Microsoft had started to promote third-party vertical market applications that integrate with  Office 365. AppSource could give third-party ISVs (independent software vendors) a further boost across financial services, healthcare, legal and other verticals.

4. Countering Oracle, Saleforce.com: Microsoft has confirmed plans to combine its cloud CRM and ERP services into a single platform called Microsoft Dynamics 365. Set to officially launch later this year, Dynamics 365 will include apps to help business customers manage field service sales, marketing, project service automation, financials, operations, customer service and more. It’s a major counter to Oracle, Salesforce and perhaps even NetSuite.

The big question: How will partners profit from Dynamics 365 — especially when on-premises Dynamics CRM and ERP have been so profitable for partners in recent years? We’ll dig for answers that emerge at the show.

5. Microsoft Surface As a Service?: Microsoft recently introduced a Surface Membership Plan — basically, a monthly payment/subscription plan for Surface computers. But so far, the Surface Membership Plan lacks a channel partner program. We’re wondering if or how that will change at the conference…

Sachin Vora

Sachin Vora

6. Major ISV Move Part I – SAP and Concur: Watch for SAP to connect the dots between Concur (it’s expense management system) and Office 365 partners. An official Concur Solution Provider Program launched last week. Sachin Vora, a Microsoft SMB partner program veteran, joined SAP earlier this year to drive the new Concur partner program. He and other SAP channel leaders will be on hand at the conference.

7. Major ISV Move Part II – StorageCraft: Meanwhile, keep a close eye on StorageCraft — the backup and data protection company. A private equity company acquired StorageCraft in January 2016, installed a new CEO, and hired additional channel leadership to drive deeper MSP and VAR relationships. But what’s going on when it comes to software R&D? New clues may, ahem, emerge at WPC16.

8. Surface Desktop vs. Apple iMac?: So far, Microsoft Surface has largely involved tablets and notebooks. But there are rumors that Microsoft might be preparing a full-blown desktop alternative to Apple iMacs. Could Microsoft unveil and/or demonstrate its iMac killer at the conference? We’re checking…

9. Microsoft Cloud PBX: Yes, Office 365 now has a cloud PBX component. The Microsoft Cloud PBX became “partner ready” around December 2015. But the company hasn’t said too much about channel opportunities for cloud dial-tone services. At least not yet…

John Thompson

John Thompson

10. Cloud Business Model: Microsoft Chairman John Thompson and the board of directors apparently have been studying Microsoft’s go-to-market model, especially as it pertains to subscription services and the cloud. It’s unclear if the board efforts will trigger whole-scale changes to Microsoft sales models. But we’ll be watching closely for more signs of change.

11. Bonus: What are you tracking at the conference? Let me know (Joe@AfterNines.com) and we’ll keep it in mind for potential coverage on ChannelE2E…

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