Microsofts Burgum Takes Partner Heat

The chief of Redmond's business-software division faces more pointed questions from partners than he did last month from antitrust lawyers.

TORONTO—Microsofts channel partners here grilled Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) chieftain Doug Burgum more pointedly than did lawyers in the Oracle-PeopleSoft antitrust trial.

Burgum kicked off the opening day of Microsofts annual worldwide partner conference with an open, hour-and-a-half question-and-answer session. And questioners were not shy about expressing their concerns about Microsofts partner-program directions involving MBS.

A number of partners voiced publicly their disenchantment with Microsofts efforts over the past year to bring MBS under the auspices of its "classic" partner program.

Partners asked Burgum for clarification on Microsofts attempt to steer them into vertical markets, as well as about its MBS pricing policies vis-à-vis those of its competitors.

In late June, Burgum took the stand as a witness in the Department of Justice vs. Oracle trial over Oracles attempt to acquire PeopleSoft.

There were surprisingly few partner questions pertaining to the trial—and Microsofts admission during the proceeding that it had held potential merger talks with SAP. Some company watchers said the talks proved that Redmond had designs on the high-end ERP market, contrary to its claims. But Burgum told partner confab attendees that Microsoft was interested in SAP because Redmond wanted to tie Office more tightly into SAP, rather than because it wanted to acquire and sell enterprise-level ERP software.

Burgum characterized himself as "an unwilling participant" in the trial. "We dont care" whether Oracle buys PeopleSoft, he claimed. "Thats their gig."

The most unusual "question" during the Q&A session came in the form of a song from a Seattle-based ISV. The ISV sung a commentary on Microsofts channel changes to the tune of Don McLeans "American Pie." The gist? The ISV was none too happy about the direction that Great Plains has taken in the past couple of years since Microsoft bought the company.

The first couple of years after Microsoft bought Great Plains in 2002, Burgum and his team focused on trying to integrate the MBS elements into the larger Microsoft organization. But now, "our jobs today are to transform Microsoft into a global leader in applications," Burgum told attendees.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts efforts to expand its MBS unit.

Another partner complained that as a result of price cuts and packaging changes made by SAP, Microsofts Axapta and Navision ERP products are losing their competitive edge. Burgum said Microsoft was looking into the issue.

Burgums overriding message to partners was that its time to stop digging their heels in the sand, and instead to embrace change. He said that without change, the MBS partners wouldnt be able to enjoy the same advantages as Microsofts other integrators, resellers and ISVs.

"People can worry so much about whether the rules are going to change that they quit playing the game," Burgum told Saturday afternoon keynote attendees.

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