Ballmer Outlines New Business Opportunities for Microsoft Partners

ATLANTA, July 14, 2000 — In a major speech today, Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer explored the incredible business opportunities that are being created for technology solution providers as a result of the company’s powerful existing technology platform and its vision for a revolutionary new approach to computing based on the recently –announced .NET initiative. In his address, Ballmer emphasized the important role that partners will play in helping Microsoft achieve the company’s goal of creating the next generation of Internet software services and solutions.

Ballmer also used his speech, which was delivered to an enthusiastic audience of nearly 4,000 Microsoft partners, to announce a number of new initiatives aimed at enabling solution providers to take full advantage of the business opportunities that will grow out of the company’s .NET platform. Among them were the expansion of the popular Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider (MCSP) Program to include a broader variety of solution providers, increased investment by Microsoft in training programs for partners, new opportunities for ASPs to build on today’s hosting platform, and the beta availability of Microsoft Small Business Server 2000, a new version of the company’s networking solution for small businesses.

The occasion for Ballmer’s address: Fusion 2000. Held this year in Atlanta, Fusion is Microsoft’s largest annual event for partners. Limited in the past to members of the MCSP program, the conference was expanded this year to include top partners in a wide range of service areas to reflect the far-reaching changes in the company’s partner programs.

Microsoft will also take advantage of the large gathering of partners at Fusion 2000 to announce winners of the company’s annual Solution and Partner of the Year Awards. In the weeks leading up to the event, a field of nearly 800 nominees competing for awards in six categories was whittled down to 29 finalists. Categories include Platform Solution of the Year, Business Solution of the Year, and MCSP Partner of the Year.

“We work with so many incredible partners, and it’s a privilege to recognize a few of the outstanding companies that have helped make Microsoft successful,”
said Ballmer in an interview prior to the start of Fusion 2000.
“Of course, narrowing down the field to just a handful of finalists was a tough task, but the companies we selected are really outstanding examples of partners who are translating Microsoft technology into innovative solutions for businesses.”

The PC at its Best

Microsoft has long known that partners play a critical role in the company’s ability to deliver technology to customers. Just how important they are to Microsoft–and to the U.S. economy as a whole–was underscored by the first High-Tech Entrepreneur Economic Impact Study, a survey commissioned in 1997 by Microsoft to look at the influence that technology consulting firms have on the U.S. economy. That survey revealed that, in 1997, high-tech entrepreneurs generated more than $300 billion in revenue, paid more than $100 billion in wages, and accounted for nearly 2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. Companies involved in the survey attributed between 29 percent and 41 percent of their revenue directly to the sale and service of Microsoft products, depending on the size of the organization.

The results of this year’s study show that the sector has seen significant growth in the intervening two years, with sales now at an astounding $426 billion. Wages now top $150 billion, and demand is so high for services offered by high-tech service firms that companies involved in the study report more than 400,000 unfilled jobs.

With the release of a broad range of products aimed specifically at meeting the needs of business customers since 1997, Microsoft has played a significant role in that growth. More recently, Windows 2000 and Office 2000 have helped create an unprecedented array of new opportunities for the army of companies that work closely with Microsoft to offer best-of-breed solutions to business clients.

“The combination of reliability and manageability make Windows 2000 an example of the PC at its best,”
Ballmer said.
“And with Office 2000, our partners are providing a powerful assortment of value-added end-user services, including online collaboration solutions and Pocket PC mobile solutions.”

Enhancing the ability of Microsoft and its partners to meet the needs of business is a strong lineup of server products, including Exchange 2000, SQL Server 2000, Biz Talk Server 2000, Application Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, Host Integration Server 2000 and ISA Server 2000. This family of products is setting new industry standards for reliability, scalability, and performance, powering such business-critical systems as Nasdaq’s real-time surveillance delivery system, which tracks more than 2 million transactions per day with 99.97 percent availability; Barnes & Noble’s e-commerce site, the world’s fourth largest, which enjoys 99.98 percent availability; and, the leading online financial site, which delivers 8.6 million page views per day with 99.99 percent availability.

The beta release today of Microsoft Small Business Server 2000 gives solutions providers a new tool in this already strong arsenal. A third-generation version of the company’s server solution for small businesses, the new release is designed to provide a comprehensive solution that offers the greatest level of flexibility and control over setup, network management and Internet connectivity. Small Business Server will help technology providers deliver the tools their customers need to utilize the Web to create innovative new ways to do business.

“Small Business Server 2000 is the best way for small businesses to get Windows 2000 Server and the Windows 2000 generation of applications that small businesses are looking for,”
Ballmer said.
“I am really proud of the great work we’ve done in delivering a comprehensive small-business networking solution and providing tools that facilitate a strong service relationship between the small-business customer and their technology provider–it is a true testament to the strategic importance we place on our technology provider partners.”

Making the Ocean of Information Work Together

Small Business Server will also serve as a gateway for delivering .NET services to small businesses. Announced in June, Microsoft’s .NET platform is a sweeping vision for the future of computing. Created to overcome the limitations of today’s Internet, .NET shifts the focus away from individual Web sites, and instead provides a framework that will allow computers, devices, and services to work in concert to deliver rich services. With .NET, businesses will have a new set of tools for empowering knowledge workers, and powerful new avenues for offering their products and services in a way that lets customers seamlessly incorporate them into their day-to-day lives.

Microsoft’s .NET vision will lead to important new business opportunities, Ballmer told the audience at Fusion 2000, ranging from enterprise application integration and XML data access in the business-to-employee market, to BizTalk Server process orchestration in the business-to-business space, to .NET server federation and management and local hosting of .NET services for Intranet infrastructure providers.

Today, explained Ballmer, the role of partners centers around deployment and management, integration, applications and network design. But as Microsoft’s .NET initiative becomes reality, and software becomes services, those roles will expand to include everything from hosting, metering, and billing, to application customization and provisioning, to new opportunities in consulting, system development and user-experience design. For Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and Application Service Providers (ASPs), that will mean increased emphasis on deployment and speed of development. OEMs will see new demand for feature-rich PCs and new types of devices. Service providers that focus on network operations will find new markets as businesses look for more and better services to meet their needs.

“The Internet revolution must now move to its next stage: ensuring that the ocean of information and resources that is out there actually work together,”
Ballmer told PressPass in a recent interview.
“By creating a unified platform through which devices and services cooperate with each other, Microsoft will unleash a new wave of developer opportunity and creativity that will move us to a new level of power and simplicity.”

To help partners capitalize on the opportunities available today with Windows 2000 and Office 2000 and tomorrow with the company’s .NET initiatives, Microsoft is making sweeping changes to a number of its partner programs. According to Ballmer, one of the most important is expansion of the company’s MCSP program to include ISVs, ASPs, integrators and resellers. The new certified partner program, which will launch officially in October, will also see the creation of special designations for partners who specialize in e-commerce, infrastructure, knowledge management and business intelligence. The goal of these changes is to provide a clear path for partners selling .NET solutions by helping customers clearly identify solution providers with expertise in the areas where they need services.

Ballmer also announced a new initiative that will support the fast-growing application hosting market with new tools and programs. Among the components of the initiative are the Guide to Developing and Hosting Web Applications, a set of resources for developers who want to maximize the use of Windows DNA in a hosted environment; the ASP Service Delivery Initiative, which will create a framework for combining hosting capacity, solutions, and expertise of ASP hosters, service companies, and consultants; a new ASP Certification Program; and new licensing options for the Windows DNA platform, Exchange 2000 Server, and Office 2000.

In addition, Microsoft is making new investments in training, with more than $41 million set aside to support .NET education efforts in the United States in the coming year. Microsoft is delivering a wide range of e-learning options to partners, including Learning Resource Interchange Toolkit 2.0, an XML-based schema that will help partners create and exchange learning content. Other training initiatives include a one-week intensive technology training seminar in San Diego in September targeted at professional trainers for Microsoft .NET. In addition, Ballmer provided the audience with a look at a comprehensive new ASP business strategy that begins with new licensing and pricing models.

“The announcement of .NET technology represents one of the most important innovations in our company’s history,”
Ballmer said.
“Fusion is our chance to communicate to partners that we will only be successful in this initiative, as with all of our initiatives, with their support, and to share with them how all partner segments can play and win with .NET. Delivering world-class solutions for customers is all about putting the best technology in the industry in our partners’ hands. It’s about making it easier for customers to know where to find the right partner to deliver their customized .NET solution. And, it’s about bringing partners closer to Microsoft, making it even easier to do business with us, and incorporating the changes into our programs and relationship management that best ready our partners–and customers–for success.”

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