Houston… we have a problem.

IT Business, Microsoft, OwnWebNow

Indeed we do, as cliché as it may sound. Microsoft and Microsoft Partners have a problem. Few problems are among us as partners, some are between us together and our competitors and clients. But we have serious problems that have only been amplified by the WPC’s show of ignorance for the concerns SMB IT have voiced.

Microsoft WPC is supposed to energize the partner community, give it full faith in the products and services Microsoft will offer next, reinforce the Microsoft leadership in the industry and motivate us all to work together with Microsoft to benefit our clients. How did it go this year?

Microsoft failed this year by all accounts and with everyone I spoke to.


Lack of Vision: Software + Services. The catchphrase has been hammered into our brains permanently, in a largely meaningless way, and repeated every minute of every keynote. Yet it failed to clearly communicate exactly where Microsoft will lead, where Microsoft will empower its partners and where it will directly compete with us. The only clear inference is that Microsoft is starting to distance itself from the “applications on a local network with a server and some remote access” strategy it has become so dominant with.

Lack of Professionalism: Microsoft is no stranger to taunting competitors and challengers. Back when Microsoft was the dominant force in personal and business computing and a beloved technology leader the jabs came off as a spirited proclamation of victory. Last week they were soaked in desperation, paralyzing and often directionless. Kevin Turner took shots at every vendor that competed against every solution Microsoft builds, clearly failing to understand that as solution providers and developers in the real world we actually partner and work with the people he was calling out. Sorry Kevin, but Microsoft has not kept up with the marketplace demands, the illusion that Microsoft tools are the best in every scenario for every company only exists in your head, solving Microsoft shortcomings with Microsoft software is not something that is easily sold to even the most gullible of CIOs.

Lack of Partner Direction: By far the biggest disappointment of the show. All of Microsoft’s executives failed to clearly communicate the partnership benefits. That is why partners pack the keynotes, to find a way to partner up with Microsoft. If you want to gloat about how fabulous you are and talk about exciting commission schedules as a brand recommender and a sales agent you might want to go work for Mary Kay. This is the biggest quagmire for Microsoft – it’s competitors are more agile because they do not have to work with partners to go to market. Infrastructure solutions are easy enough to offer and both Google and Apple and Amazon are beating Microsoft to the market, with far simpler and less convoluted solutions. How can Microsoft compete with its partners in a solution ecosystem that doesn’t require partners to begin with?

Lack of Problem Recognition: Apple absolutely decimates the public image of Microsoft’s new system and Microsoft sits back. Microsoft is constantly challenged as a company without ability to come out with anything new that captivates the business and consumer marketplace – and they dust off the research lab professors and robots that wouldn’t even make it into cheesy 70’s vision of the future. Microsoft partners pay thousands of dollars to come to the WPC to hear how Microsoft intends to fix the Vista issues and are instead handed the blame for not pushing Vista hard enough and driving deployments.

Lack of Broad Excitement: Don’t underestimate how relevant broad excitement by the overall global IT community may be. Blogs. Newsgroups. Web TV. Even more mainstream technology sites largely ignored the significant news coming from the event. In a time where Microsoft is being attacked on all sides – devices, servers, workstation operating systems, entertainment – Microsoft’s competitors are capturing the imagination and excitement of the technology enthusiasts and evangelists leaving Microsoft in their ridiculed middle aged man self as depicted in Apple commercials which are less funny with each passing day and just pointing out the obvious. Microsoft is slowly turning into IBM. Quick, how much IBM software do you run today? Microsoft as a platform is not just a .exe anymore. With AIR, with the cloud application deployments that can be multiplatform from the start, with even iPhone, Microsoft had to excite and give a great reason for someone to develop for their platform and make it relevant. In faling to do so, Microsoft jeopardizes their future.

Of All The Epic Fails…

Microsoft’s competitors just can’t do anything to wrong the client. Google ships 12 Tb of logs to a private company and destroys any faith anyone could possibly have in them yet they continue to be the most well respected brand and an emerging solution for all your business, personal and social problems. Apple bricks thousands of phones, downs their cloud me solution for days, makes their customers stand in the line for hours while their systems crash, cripples their devices and clients not only take the abuse but live to rave about how great the ends justified the experience.

Meanwhile Microsoft cannot even get its most loyal partners to consider a move from a six year old platform. With the clients showing less and less willingness to pay for the essentials and the rising competence of Microsoft’s core competitors in Apple and Linux it is hard to find what Microsoft’s vision is. Yes, Software + Services as we heard the first 5,000 times but what does that actually mean? How does Microsoft compete with the ad sponsored software? How does Microsoft compete with totally free software?

You have to be a heck of a Microsoft fanboy to look past these obstacles and answer these questions.

I am one of those unapologetic Microsoft fanboys and even I am shaking my head at this.

Microsoft clearly no longer wants to work with partners on a broad scale. Sure on the low end they want to train “partners” to be their evangelists and SA resellers. On the high end, Microsoft wants the partners to fill in the gap in the solution portfolio until Microsoft can catch up to them and replace with their own solutions. You may even scrape by in the complex infrastructure migration space where a company magically wants to replace their current infrastructure mess with a new release of more of the same and face the same problem five years down the road. Little holes, little gaps, little opportunities.

Where are the partners?

That is the key question that remained vague and unanswered. Yeah, we got it, Software + Services!

Where am I as a Microsoft partner? In 2008, higher and higher. We’ll do more business with Microsoft this year than ever before, with two huge undertakings under way. Past that, I have to admit, I am less decisive of aligning my business with Microsoft because for the first time in my Microsoft partnership I doubt their direction and seriously question their ability to be successful across the board. I don’t see where OWN fits in Microsoft’s quest to fight against itself and cannibalize its own self interests and pricing premiums. I doubt and refuse to commit my development resources on a Microsoft network that has a goal of competing with free and AdSense, I sell the value of my solutions not their mass appeal to resell others. As Dare Obsanjo mentioned this weekend, giving sh*t away is not a business model.

Steve, Kevin, Allison… you need to go back to the drawing board.

You failed to draw up a clear picture for us to be a partner in your business plan.

You have put us in an uncomfortable position where we must reevaluate our business plan and you can count that we’re going to our own drawing board, with an eraser.

Microsoft, Houston.. we have a problem. We need to be involved. Decisions and announcements you’ve made this week will make the business in the short term very good, but they ignore the long term strategy problems that have us all uncertain and desperate for answers. Answers that you have failed to provide. Those concerns don’t go away, they just fume and seriously impact our relationship in the future, which in turn limits your ambitions for the future. You need to come up with something, fast. Where does Microsoft want to go today? I honestly can’t answer that question. Can you? Can Microsoft? Everywhere is not a direction, it’s lack thereof. Microsoft, the clock is ticking – fix this while we’re still listening.

P.S. I have told Microsoft a year ago that their model will not work. I have warned partners in many posts to start thinking cloud strategy in their own service model. I have changed my business model as a result of it, I have broadened OWN reach of Microsoft cloud to native deployments in EU and in Australia, I have offered 10x as much as Microsoft does, I have a long track record of being brutally honest even when it may not be the most popular thing to say, I have thousands of partners worldwide, a mature service-oriented organization. I really do not appreciate folks offending my friends or trying to volunteer me for advisory councils or more free work, I have no intention of helping Microsoft fix the mistake I’ve given them a years worth of heads-up on. If you want this to be fixed so badly to work for you, I have fixed it. It’s called Own Web Now Corp. Hit the partner link and grow your business. Or sit back and complain while Microsoft makes you extinct. I intend to invest the next year of my professional blogging towards helping SMB prepare and embrace the cloud and grow it as a part of the solution portfolio, not as a replacement for a 6% fib. As Alec Baldwin said in Glengarry Glen Ross: “Get mad you sons of bitches.” Microsoft, do likewise. We all want our clients to get the best service at the best possible price with the best possible company. I am making sure OWN is a part of that solution. I am begging Microsoft to come aboard. I am begging you to consider it too. The choice is yours, let’s go!