DENVER—While Office has always had a big reseller channel, Microsoft recognized that it needed to add a different kind of partner in its ecosystem to accompany the rise of SharePoint.
The reason, said Chris Capossela, the corporate vice president of Microsofts business division, is that just as SharePoint gives customers new ways to connect documents and processes, it opens the door for a new legion of partners to support needs that those capabilities have helped to generate.
“The interesting thing for our business has been that Office historically has always had a big reseller channel. You know, lots of partners who sold the product, lots of trainers whove done custom training or end-user training. But we recognized the need for a different kind of partner in our partner ecosystem. More of the ISV, the software developer, more of the solution vendor, solution provider, solution integrator,” Capossela told eWEEK in an interview
“When we saw the things we were building with SharePoint, when we saw the things we were doing with Office with XML where you can connect Office to back-end systems because data is in an XML format instead of a binary format, we felt like we were just going to create a huge demand for partner services and we had to go on a massive partner recruiting and education and readiness spree,” Capossela said.
In previous keynotes at Microsofts Worldwide Partner Conference several years ago, Capossela said he would ask how many people were using SharePoint as part of their practice, but the audience did not know what SharePoint was.
“How many of them were Office partners? Only a teeny, tiny percentage of them had a competency around the information worker space. Since then, weve really done an enviable job at getting the partner base to see the opportunity. Last year I asked how many partners were using SharePoint, how many were delivering SharePoint services? And just thousands of partners raised their hands,” he said.
Some 2,000 partners also attended each of the two breakout sessions after that 2006 keynote. “The majority of the partners are now doing information work practices, and so weve got this tremendous momentum in the marketplace behind Office and SharePoint and its really great,” he said.
The interest in Office and SharePoint is underscored by the growth in partner numbers. There are more than 5,000 partners that currently meet the Information Worker competency, up from 3,600 at last years conference. Of those, 2,200 are also SharePoint partners.
“Its really broken through, which is great,” Capossela said. “Its a wonderful thing for the future of the Office business and for Microsoft and obviously for our partners that are excited, because theres a lot of different places they can go with the one infrastructure. Once they have SharePoint in place, they can do many, many different types of things on top of it, so partners see a big services opportunity for them, a professional services opportunity for them, and thats fun to see.”
Microsoft also expects increased partner opportunities to flow from its unified communications products, which include Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, Caposella said.
As such, the company has created a new unified communications specialization under the Information Worker competency in the Microsoft Partner Program.
In Search of New
Microsoft is also launching new deployment planning services programs for the desktop and SharePoint, which help compensate program-certified partners that deliver customized deployment plans to eligible customers.
The desktop deployment planning services program is available now, while the SharePoint deployment planning services program is expected to be made available in January 2008 as part of Microsofts Software Assurance program.
Like the other keynote speakers on the first day of the sold-out conference, who included CEO Steve Ballmer and chief operating officer Kevin Turner, Capossela spoke to the 10,000 attendees about software plus services solutions and how these offer partners a wide variety of opportunities, whether they are hosted on site by customers, by Microsoft, or its partners.
For example, he noted that Microsoft Office Live provides developers with access to more than 400,000 small businesses, which has traditionally been a hard-to-reach demographic.
“To reach this market segment, Microsoft Office Live is updating its partner program to include new programs such as the Microsoft Office Live Marketplace, the new Microsoft Office Live Affiliate Network and greater access to the Microsoft Office Live customer base,” he said.
Caposella also used his keynote address to announce an updated Office Live Solution Developers program, a new Office Business Applications OnRamp program and new Desktop and SharePoint Deployment Planning Services programs.
Caposella also sang the praises of enterprise search, noting that more than 3,500 partners are enrolled in the Quickstart for Microsoft Search partner program, which was launched at the 2006 worldwide partner conference.
Quickstart helps partners gain knowledge and build skills by giving them access to training and community resources.
There are also a growing number of partners developing new enterprise search tools on the SharePoint platform. Among them is BearingPoint, which provides information management and search solutions, and which will offer a search-enabled application, known as SingleView.
This application helps SharePoint Server 2007 customers access information from across a variety of enterprise repositories, structured databases and unstructured content libraries.
Microsoft further announced that more than 1,150 partners from 50 countries on six continents have registered their support for Ecma Office Open XML, the default file format for Office desktop applications.
It also announced that Linux platform developer Turbolinux is the latest company to pledge support for the creation of Open XML to ODF (OpenDocument Format) translator tools, along with Novell, Linspire and Xandros.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include add new comments on Microsofts evolving strategy from Microsoft corporate vice president Chris Caposella.