The International ISV Assistance Program was established as a result of customer requests for such a service and applies to all of Microsofts ISV partners, including those already global in nature. "All companies tend to set up their sales force by geographies or by accounts," Watson said. "Crossing the geographic boundaries for customers who are not one of the biggest accounts often poses a real challenge. So we have leveraged the assets of our partner and sales network to get the right ISVs with vertical or horizontal applications into another geography. We will put a Microsoft employee who knows everything about the specific offerings for increasing sales opportunities and closure in that geography, and they will service those receiving ISVs."There is a process for an ISV to be nominated and designated as a "receiving ISV," she said, adding that so far there are 100 ISVs enrolled in the programwhich only launched in Octoberwho are "truly volume cross-border companies. The more deeply vertical the customer is, the more this program matters."Read more here about how Microsoft believes opportunities abound for partners. The program is also open to Microsoft Gold Certified Partners, who have to apply to get into it, and the cost is also borne by Microsoft. "We are looking for people who are going to build channels downstream," Watson said, adding that the benefit to Microsoft of these new services and programs is greater sales of its products. "There is an unprecedented market opportunity with the upcoming release of Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007, and ISVs are betting on Microsoft like never before," she said. "These new assets that we have been in pilot with and are now launching and making broadly available is proving that there is a real profitable business opportunity to being a Microsoft partner." "They get twice as fast customer growth, a faster sales cycle and twice as fast implementation with us versus our competitors," she added. Vendors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle tend to take either a vertical or deep horizontal approach with their partners, steering them from application builds through the sales and marketing process, for periods of time, she said. "Ill give my competitors credit, and maybe Im taking a page out of their book and then putting Microsoft scale behind it, because we will go across verticals, across horizontals, across all, and then put scalable resources into the model. And thats the difference, and competitors like IBM dont pull it all together," Watson said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.