More than 5,500 Microsoft Corp. partners came to New Orleans last week to attend the Redmond, Wash., companys first-ever Worldwide Partner Meeting. And Microsoft didnt disappoint, announcing the general availability of Small Business Server 2003. eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli caught up with the man in charge of the product, Orlando Ayala, senior vice president of Microsofts Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partner Group, to discuss some of the issues surrounding SBS.
Microsoft has been talking a lot about the integrated innovation that SBS 2003 brings to the market. Does this mean you are actively using that product to push the sale of other products on customers as well?
SBS brings great value to our customers and partners. The connectivity and wiring we have done in this product brings a new level of integration. But products like Office are the window from which customers run their businesses. So broad customer connectivity is very important, and our task is to show them the value that SBS and the client bring. We need to help them understand the value the whole stack brings and how each part works well with the other.
Some people are saying that SBS 2003 is nothing more than the Microsoft BackOffice product, which was discontinued in 2001, revisited. Is that the case?
Absolutely not. BackOffice was targeted at a very different set of customers. The major breakthrough of SBS 2003 is the simplicity it brings to the small and midsize market through the enormous integration work we have done.
Obviously, Microsoft needs to have its partners on board to promote and sell this product and your vision. But some of the former Great Plains partners are apparently worried about their future and role in promoting this solution. Are you addressing that?
Absolutely. We cannot do this without them. We have invested very deeply in our SMB [small and midsize business] products. We had 42,000 SMB resellers and already have 5,000 on board for SBS 2003, and we expect this to grow to 10,000 over the next year. …
Linux is very successful in the small-business space due to the fact that many customers perceive it to be free. How do you compete with that perception?
This is all about customer value. We have a lot of work to do with the channel to show that our integrated stack is really the way to add value. But the reality is that, in the end, the customer will have the last word, and the vendors will win based on how they respond to customer pain.