Taking a tough look at Microsoft as a partner

Microsoft, Vladville

Over the past 12-18 months Microsoft has gotten a lot of bumps and bruises on this blog, ever since Kevin Turner and Allison Watson outlined the lack of vision for the company that is Microsoft as we’ve known and grown with. At the Worldwide Partner Conference in 2007, Turner announced the Microsoft shift to the more consumer-centric business and at the Wordwide Partner Conference 2008 both Turner and Watson explained where the partner community will remain – below 6% commission on cloud services with opportunities to integrate legacy platforms with the new way of Microsoft software service subscriptions. In November of this year at the Microsoft PDC, Ray Ozzie revived the much criticized Hailstorm .NET failure at the turn of the millennium into a thriving cloud based operating system and renewed the commitment to the developers that choose to build on top of Microsoft.

Yesterday, Microsoft also announced the launch of the Microsoft store where you can purchase software directly from Microsoft.

In a nutshell, in just under 18 months, we have seen Microsoft go from the largest software developer in the world to the largest technology conglomerate in the world with the funds, presence, talent and overwhelming opportunity to seize large shares of the markets that are struggling.

Do you think that bankruptcy of Circuit City and CompUSA had anything to do with the idea that Microsoft needs to go at it alone to reach the end customer? Microsoft’s inability to control the messaging in the retail segment has as much to do with the Vista failure as do the perennial Apple smears against it.

My biggest gripe with Microsoft for years has been in that Microsoft lacked leadership and vision. Ray Ozzie has changed that.

For years Microsoft roamed the post-monopoly-lawsuit desert in search of a hit – with many technologies seen as me-too would-be competitors that failed to catch on. The entire cloud approach, from search to storage, seemed like a neverending collection of summer intern code experiments that lacked in both purpose and refinement. It just seems cool became the norm at Microsoft Live, except none of the cool kids wanted to play with it.

And when it seemed like Microsoft was down for the count it seems something changed with it in a way that absolutely repositioned the company and its direction. Looking at the flow and innovation from Microsoft it no longer feels like a business software company trying to exert it’s will into tangent markets – it seems like a business platform company that wants to be the delivery mechanism for the services.

That is a tough call to make and a huge change in direction – one that has caused a lot of pain as the ship now plows over the partner marketplace that brought Microsoft to it’s prominence to begin with.

So as painful as it is to watch, it is ultimately the right thing for Microsoft and the right thing for the technology marketplace. We (software solutions people) strive to enable easy communication, trust in the computing process and data integrity, and the beauty of this business and profession is that you never stop learning with the constant change.

Microsoft has effectively shot the middleman that stood in the way of their direct relationship with the user – if you were that middle man your days are unfortunately numbered. As more technology jobs are sailed down the pink slip river there is a very bright and positive side to the development – more and more people are not just using but relying on technology for both business and leisure. As complexity is removed and reliability is improved the opportunity goes from “building IT” to “improving IT” and the great news is that the cost of entry in the new world is pretty much leveled.

If you intend to be in business or even employed five years from now I hope you are imagining your role in IT five years down the road.

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