“Windows Partner Solutions” Create New Value for Partners and Customers

DENVER, July 10, 2007 — Today at the Worldwide Partner Conference Microsoft is rolling out a new program that enables resellers, systems integrators and managed service providers to take advantage of Windows Vista Enterprise and the technologies in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance to deliver customized solutions that meet the specific needs of a variety of customers.

Under a new program titled “Windows Partner Solutions,” two new sets of technologies and services are being announced:

  • Optimized Desktop Essentials – A set of software and partner-provided services that reduces the time to set-up and configure a new PC, minimizes PC downtime, reduces total cost of ownership and protects business data from theft.

  • Managed Optimized Desktop – A set of software and services for managed service providers that leverages the technologies of the Optimized Desktop to help increase profitability by reducing support costs, improving PC uptime and protecting business information.

To get an idea of what Windows Partner Solutions are all about, and how customers and partners are expected to benefit, PressPass spoke with Mike Sievert, corporate vice president for Windows product marketing.

Mike Sievert, Corporate Vice President, Windows Product Marketing, Microsoft

PressPass: Can you provide some context around today’s announcement?

Sievert: With nearly 40 million copies sold as of May, Windows Vista is on track to be the fastest selling operating system in Microsoft’s history — presenting a lot of opportunity for our partners. It wasn’t too long ago though, that IT guys would hear about all those new desktops and think “My life’s about to get more complicated, and more expensive.” CIOs worldwide understand that the desktop can be a significant source of cost. To us, that means there’s also an opportunity — and we’re not the only ones seeing it. There’s a movement going on in IT. CIOs are no longer looking at the desktop as part of the problem; now they’re looking at it as part of the solution.

For example, we’ve recently added the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance, which includes some standout features for both IT professionals and end users. Windows Vista Enterprise and MDOP have driven double-digit growth in our Volume Licensing business this year — in fact, MDOP has been the fastest sold technology from Microsoft ever in Volume Licensing, selling more than 2 million licenses in the first six months.

We also realized the need to put solutions out there in such a way that our partners could package them up to meet the specific needs of mid-size customers. That’s why we’re launching Windows Partner Solutions — resources and tools that make it easy for partners to sell new Microsoft technologies along with their own services offerings to mid-size companies.

These solution sets are designed to help partners reduce their costs, cut down the time necessary for implementations, and ultimately, satisfy their customers. In addition to increased customer satisfaction, we think that partners have the potential to significantly increase their margin per PC on these projects, because the technologies make the process so much easier.

PressPass: How do these solutions accomplish that?

Sievert: The solutions help folks to set up and configure new PCs more quickly and easily, and to make sure the migration process is as seamless as possible. They also drive a lot of customer value in terms of improved work force productivity and reducing the hassle of managing a large number of desktops in a mid-size company, whether that’s 50 or 500 PCs.

Furthermore, most of the ongoing total cost of ownership for desktops is labor related — as much as 70 percent — and these technologies can significantly cut those costs. We think that customers could potentially realize up to US$130 per PC of value right off (using assumptions based on a typical SMB customer and value-added reseller, including number of PCs and cost of labor). In addition to increased customer satisfaction, we think partners have the potential to make $25 per PC in incremental margin on these projects, because the technologies make the process so much easier.

These packages also create an opportunity for partners to offer new services and solutions, using technologies such as Microsoft SoftGrid and sequencing applications that enable customers to reduce PC downtime and application conflicts, gaining significant productivity. One of the things we heard from many of these partners is that they’re looking for technology to help them develop ongoing relationships with customers. Technologies such as Microsoft SoftGrid application streaming can allow them to provide new services that differentiate them against competitors who might not be able to offer those sorts of services.

PressPass: Are you providing software tools to aid in the sales process as well?

Sievert: Yes. Another thing that’s really exciting for partners, as well as technology decision makers inside of customer companies, is that we’re releasing two tools as part of Windows Partner Solutions — the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool version 2.0, and the Windows Vista Business Value Assessment tool.

The Hardware Assessment tool 2.0 helps partners quickly evaluate whether their customers’ existing computers are ready for Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and it provides guidance on appropriate hardware and device driver upgrades. The new version of the tool now supports inventory and readiness assessment of networks with up to 25,000 computers — up from just 5,000 in the first version.

We also worked together with analyst firm IDC and Alinean Inc. to develop the Business Value Assessment tool. Using their data, the tool helps partners calculate the financial benefit their mid-size customers will reap when upgrading to Windows Vista. The Business Value Assessment tool allows partners to efficiently identify a customer’s potential return on investment and create business cases for deployment — which most business decision makers require for large projects. And the business case here is strong.

PressPass: How customizable are these packages to suit unique customer and partner needs?

Sievert: We talked to many partners around the globe —like solutions providers Heartland Technology Solutions and InterAccess to name just a couple— and one thing was clear from all of them: we need to be careful not to make solutions so specific that out of the dozens of customers a partner sells to, it really only applies to a handful.

Our solutions have been developed to be easily tailored based on particular market segments that our partners serve. Windows Partner Solutions makes it easy for partners to customize, whether they’re doing install and config services, managed services or other types of hybrid implementations.

PressPass: What are some other components of Windows Partner Solutions?

Sievert: One problem for mid-size companies — and it’s an important one — is that they only have a small number of IT professionals working for them. They want to be licensed correctly for the software they have. They want to make sure their users have rights to use it. But these are folks that are pretty strapped in terms of time.

Microsoft Asset Inventory Services is a part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack technology that helps IT generalists inventory all of the software running on their machines across the network. It sounds straightforward, but it’s a huge problem for a lot of companies. A lot of users download technology that might be causing those PCs to crash. When they crash, it drives calls to the help desk, and it will reduce the time that those IT professionals can spend doing higher value work such as rolling out new systems.

Another big challenge for partners and customers alike is just managing cash flow. Let’s talk about Microsoft Financing, which is a huge win for our partners. Mid-size companies typically manage their balance sheet and cash flow in terms of accounts receivable, and invest profits from work they’ve already sold into growing the business. That’s a tough problem for a lot of companies to manage.

Microsoft Financing as part of Windows Partner Solutions enables customers to finance not only the Windows Volume Licenses, but also the hardware as well as the partner services that are delivered as part of these solutions.

This is one of those rare situations where everyone wins. Partners get payment up front for all three years of a Volume License agreement, and also for any kind of hardware and third-party software they sell with the solution — plus all the services they deliver. And customers are able to package up the total solution and finance that out over several years — as they begin to receive the return on their technology investment. Depending on the efficiencies gained, the technology could actually be helping to pay for itself over time.

PressPass: What resources are you offering to get partners started in these programs?

Sievert: In addition to Windows Partner solutions, we’re going to be releasing a series of resources to help partners be successful in understanding what the business opportunity is, as well as giving them the technical skills to deploy these solutions.

We also have new tools available, including the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool 2.0 and the Business Value Assessment tool as noted previously. In coming weeks, the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool will be available in six languages in addition to North American English, including French, German, Japanese, Korean, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. Partners will be able to use this tool to create readiness reports in these languages. The Business Value Assessment tool will also be localized into German, French, Italian, Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and Russian.

Additionally, we are providing solution overviews and value propositions to our partners to help guide them on how to make recommendations on solutions for their customers. These provide an overview of what these solutions are, the value they drive for customers as well as the opportunity that partners have.

We’re also providing white papers on each of these solutions that go into specific detail about the types of services partners can offer and how that can help them build new revenue streams for their business. In addition, there is a partner “playbook” available that provides a comprehensive set of resources around Windows Vista that will help partners articulate this value proposition.