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Microsoft promises, fails to keep things simple for partners

'Evolution is not an easy route'

Microsoft today tried to convince UK channel partners that it’s working hard to simplify its licensing terms, but many resellers have grumbled that the firm hasn’t gone far enough yet.

MS director of emerging technology, Gurprit Singh, who was speaking at the company’s partner event in London this morning, told the gathered crowd that a key part of its latest Software plus Services strategy was all about keeping things simple for resellers.

“We want to make it [licensing] as friction-free as we can,” he said.

But the problem for Redmond is in convincing partners that it can do simple. In the past many have loudly complained about the complex terms Microsoft interweaves into its licensing. Others have hit out at how many different flavours of MS licensing they, and therefore their customers, have to grapple with.

The firm is betting big on a hybrid model that doesn’t push everything onto the cloud, like the Salesforce.coms of this world, but instead offers a “power of choice” by tying its online services to its client software.

However, Microsoft wonks are on-message about the software giant’s future, which is fundamentally being forced by the market, regulators and rivals to step up its game - MS prefers the word “evolve” - in these economically gloomy times.

According to Redmond, the channel has a crucial part to play in the firm’s evolution. In other words, Microsoft really really needs it to stump up cash and invest in account managers, telesales and marketing to help get its message across.

UK partners will be able to get their hands on Microsoft Online Services sometime during spring 2009, said the company’s Software plus Services reselling exec Maggie Chan Jones.

Resellers can expect to contend with a different biz model to simply punting software, she added. Now it’s not just about software but hosted services, migration and integration, business process consulting and desktop managed services as well. That’s a fact that could prove a big headache for some.

Chan Jones sees it more as an “opportunity for partners to see revenue growth in a number of areas,” she also attempted to emphasize with the resellers at the event by saying that “evolution is not an easy route”.

Ovum analyst David Mitchell, a guest at Microsoft’s central London event, said the firm had presented its resellers with "too many logos and too many questions".

He added that Microsoft was "lacking real simplicity for partners to interact with". Indeed his comment received one of the morning's biggest round of applause, which perhaps best highlights the true, nervy feelings being expressed by the channel right now. ®

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