WPC '14: Microsoft's New Tune

Every summer, Microsoft holds their Worldwide Partner Conference.  It’s their annual gathering of partners from around the world where they talk about everything from products and solutions, to roadmaps and business strategy.  It’s an incredible opportunity for partners like CHIPS to work closely with the highest level people at Microsoft to help plan our business and align our strategies.  This is the 10th year we have been in attendance, and it always proves a valuable way to spend 4 days and helps shape many of the decisions we make.

About 5 years ago, one of the featured speakers was Kevin Turner, who at the time was newly hired as the Chief Operating Officer.  His keynote speech has always been about high-level competition and partner strategy.  At the time, he talked about the coming changes in our industry.  He said we were basically standing at the start of a tunnel, and if you look in, you can see a light.  That light is either the light on the other side of the tunnel, or an oncoming train!  Basically, he was referring to the oncoming emergence of the cloud, and how it is going to change how users and companies work with software and technology forever.

Needless to say, Kevin was right. The cloud is everywhere today, and companies and users of all shapes and sizes have embraced it for some part of their business.  I don’t think I realized just how much it has changed a behemoth company like Microsoft however, until I saw Kevin speak a few weeks ago.  One line in particular struck me.  He came out and said he doesn’t want us (Microsoft partners) to focus on selling our collective clients software licenses.  Now on the surface, this sounds like Microsoft is basically closing up shop, but obviously that isn’t the case by a long shot.  They are simply changing direction and it’s more evident than ever.

Microsoft has become 100% about selling services and solutions.  Of course they don’t want you to buy that software license, they want to you buy a solution that specifically fills a business need, and has some sort of subscription attached to it.  The days of boxed software you install on your computer are gone.  Office 365, SPLA, subscriptions to CRM and Dynamics online are here to stay.  Want further proof?  Microsoft just announced they will be giving away Windows with no royalty to any manufacturer that wants to make a sub 7 inch tablet running windows.  That means the manufacturer can pre-load Windows on every device they ship at no cost.  Why would Microsoft do this?  Simple – the tablet running a Microsoft operating system can run a Microsoft cloud service, and that’s the revenue Microsoft is looking for.

As always there was lots of talk at the conference about the latest and greatest products.  There were whispers about the next version of Windows, and some talk about updates in SQL Server and SharePoint, but that was far from the focus.  The message from Microsoft was clear.  We are in a brave new world.  Partners and customers that embrace cloud solutions are going to grow and thrive.  Traditional ways of running IT in your organization are quickly becoming a dinosaur.  Sure this brings some change and learning, but it brings a world of opportunity.

New solutions that leverage mobile platforms and cloud infrastructure will let businesses work faster, smarter and more efficiently than ever before.  Productivity will flourish helping not just your company, if you leverage what is available, but your clients and their clients and so on.  If you’re not doing it now, it’s time to think about these changing solutions and offerings.  If a company like Microsoft can completely reinvent itself in just 5 years, what is stopping you?