REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 12, 2003 — Microsoft today celebrates the first anniversary of its Mobility Partner Advisory Council (MPAC). One year ago, the group was formed as an engagement model. Microsoft wanted to build a more intimate and comprehensive approach to serving its top partners. MPAC members — a select group of System Integrator (SI), Independent Software Vendor (ISV) and Independent Hardware Vendor (IHV partners) — are offered unique, partner-determined benefits not available in other partner programs.
For MPAC members, Microsoft offers technical, marketing and business development support to assist them as they make significant investments toward developing solutions for Microsoft Windows Powered devices such as Pocket PCs and Smartphones.
In honor of the anniversary, PressPass hosted a roundtable discussion with Mary Rose Becker , group manager with Microsoft Mobile Devices Division, and three partner-company executives, all members of MPAC: Clint Patterson , vice president of product marketing with Handango, Jon Poynton , commercial director with England-based TBS, and John Dancu , president and COO with Synchrologic.
PressPass: How and why did Microsoft form MPAC?
Becker (Microsoft): In December of 2001, we invested some dedicated time to survey our Mobility partner community. We asked them what their needs were, and what we could provide for a future program. This discussion was the basis for the incubation of the MPAC program. It is partner-led, and partner-evolved. Our partners wanted a consistent way to stay connected to Microsoft, and to our strategies and our product offerings. And as they were going through the challenges of building applications and solutions, they were looking for a higher level of technical support. The partners also wanted to take advantage of the ongoing marketing horsepower and momentum created by Microsoft. Out of their wish list evolved a quarterly meeting format. At the meetings, we share our latest strategies and bring in key OEMs as well as top analysts, who talk in-depth about what’s going on in the mobility space. We also talk about up and coming marketing initiatives. We’ve built a marketing and public relations mechanism that helps MPAC members go to market more quickly and efficiently. My role is to match the partner desires with creative program opportunities that drive demand for devices, solutions and customer wins. Ultimately, it’s an engagement model that furthers a partners business.
PressPass: What about technical support?
Becker (Microsoft): As part of the MPAC program development, we secured a comprehensive level of technical support with simplified access. We have a dedicated engagement manager with a core team of mobility engineers and consultants to support our diverse partner needs. It’s shortened the amount of time it takes MPAC members to get the support they need in order to resolve issues as they work toward launch and deployment of their applications and solutions.
Poynton (TBS): I’d like to add that the technical support has been particularly helpful for us at TBS. When we encounter problems, we can escalate them up and get the help we need to resolve them. It gives us a warm feeling, knowing that support is so readily available.
PressPass: How does Microsoft select partners for MPAC membership?
Becker (Microsoft): We are always looking for partners that are proactively engaged in our Microsoft Solutions Partner Program. Partners are then measured against a set of business criteria. To become a member of MPAC, a company must be a leader in the industry, have a proven track record of success and a demonstrated commitment to the platform.
PressPass: Why is it important for MPAC to be global?
Becker (Microsoft): The MPAC program is a global initiative. We support a diverse set of partner companies across the world to further momentum in the Mobility industry. Having a global scope allows us to meet a broader range of customer and partner needs .We plan to continue expansion, as our partner needs evolve, and foster the global ecosystem we’ve initiated in MPAC.
PressPass: Now, for the partners, could you each explain what technologies your company offers on the Microsoft Windows Powered mobile platforms?
Patterson (Handango): You can think of Handango in two ways — as a platform and as a publisher. The Handango application management and provisioning platform (Handango AMPP) lets mobile operators, device manufacturers, portals and others create a Web-based and phone-based storefronts where they can sell mobile applications and digital media to their subscribers. Handango provides the applications, the technology for selling and delivering them, and a whole set of services — such as marketing and customer care — to support them. Currently, the top four handheld manufacturers, the top two phone manufacturers, three of the top five U.S. carriers, and more than 100 other companies use Handango AMPP to deliver software and digital media to their customers. As a publisher, we help more than 8,000 software partners bring more than 25,000 mobile software applications to market through an extensive distribution network that includes online, over-the-air, retail and enterprise sales channels.
Poynton (TBS): Being a smaller company, our technology is a bit more industry-specific. Imagine a guy showing up to service a gas boiler. Our technology drives him through the process of safety checks, assuring that he adheres to processes. The technology we offer on the Windows Powered mobile platform is called TaskMaster, and it consists of two elements. The first is a host server, which relays information out to engineers working in the field so they can see it on their handheld device. The second component is the TaskMaster client, which sits directly on the handheld device. Rather than being fixed, the look and feel of the screen on the handheld is driven by the data. If the data requires the screen to look different, it will. One day the screen may have five fields and the next it may only have three. We’ve taken a lot of time to match our software to the processes undertaken by the field worker, and building on the Windows Powered mobile platform has been an asset for us in that regard.
Dancu (Synchrologic): We offer an entire suite of enterprise mobility solutions that make Pocket PC and Pocket PC Phone Edition devices invaluable for mobile workers. Synchrologic Mobile Suite mobilizes corporate data such as e-mail, enterprise applications such as CRM, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and Web sites. Synchrologic Mobile Suite also provides companies with robust mobile systems management tools that allow them to support devices in the field from the company’s centralized IT location by automating tasks such as updates to existing applications or sending out new software. This helps dramatically lower the total cost of ownership for those devices. We’ve also extended the Microsoft Mobile Platform through the Microsoft Mobile Workplace initiative.. It has helped us deploy the solution to large companies such as Standard & Poor’s, GE Capital and Wrigley’s, which immediately saw the benefit of solving mobility issues with the best software and services provider in the market.
PressPass: Tell us what goes on when members of MPAC gather.
Poynton (TBS): Well, we’re all overfed. Seriously though, I quite like the fact that they pack a lot into each day. The events I’ve attended have been very informative and very helpful, with a good blend of information. I appreciate the fact that there are two tracks, one for marketing and one for IT. We’re planning to send someone from our IT team to meetings in the future.
Patterson (Handango): I had such a good experience with the first two meetings that I started feeling guilty for hogging all the fun, so we’ve been rotating attendance. We’ve sent our CFO, our vice president of IT, and others from throughout the company. We try to spread the wealth because the information Microsoft shares is so impressive and critical to our business. It’s important for us to understand where Microsoft is headed in the mobility market, what they consider important and where they’re investing. MPAC is a great forum for this. Microsoft has also shared some great research, which is tremendously helpful in giving us a better view of the market. And, of course, it’s a great networking opportunity.
Dancu (Synchrologic): Each meeting gets better and better with rich content and industry information that helps us make smart business decisions regarding support for Microsoft products. Participation gives us a good view into the direction Microsoft is taking, which truly influences the mobility market. MPAC also provides great technical help through Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), which is very responsive to our needs and always willing to share helpful information we need to develop our products on the Microsoft platform. Finally, the team is a fantastic group of people. We’ve established a great partnership that’s helped both companies meet their goals.
PressPass: What are the key benefits of being a member of MPAC?
Patterson (Handango): For Handango, being a part of MPAC has helped us relate to and work with various parts of Microsoft. We’ve also appreciated a range of strategic counsel such as public-relations help with announcements and case studies. Also, since the MPAC is such a well-regarded group of people, it gives us added credibility when working with other parts of Microsoft.
Poynton (TBS): There are thousands of companies that can call themselves Microsoft partners, but there are only 50 members of MPAC. Being a member makes us feel somewhat unique and special. In a more tangible sense, we’re currently planning an event focused on the utilities sector. The event will be held at the Microsoft campus in England, and Microsoft is very actively supporting it by working with us to develop collateral and promotional materials and linking us to the Microsoft sales channel.
Dancu (Synchrologic): We’ve seen four main benefits come out of being a member of MPAC. First, the communication. We are more informed than we’ve ever been on product road maps and company direction. Second is increased market awareness. Microsoft has done a good job at further educating the market on mobility. Together, we’ve been able to create some interesting joint success stories. Technical assistance is the third area of benefit. Any time we need assistance, we send an e-mail to the MPAC technical group and they are there to help. Finally, their advocacy for Synchrologic is truly invaluable. When you have an advocate within a large organization like Microsoft, it makes partnering easier and more beneficial to both sides.
PressPass: Moving away from MPAC for a moment, how do you think mobility is impacting the way people use technology?
Poynton (TBS): In our company’s case, our primary target is the blue-collar worker who does task-related work. Our technology strips away a lot of the elements that are mundane while preserving what’s important. People who work in the field get the information they need for the day without having to wait or run the risk of copying down something incorrectly. The mobile technology has enabled us to go from paper to a form that is electronic and intelligent. The streamlining that’s made possible reduces the margin of error as well as administrative costs.
Dancu (Synchrologic): Mobility has really taken off this past year. With the launch of Microsoft-based phone platforms, these devices are starting to be seen everywhere. The technology untethers mobile workers from their corporate offices. Companies reap the benefits of being able to supply their road warriors with all the information they need to do their jobs while out of the office. You can only do that through a fully functional mobile device like Pocket PCs. Keeping sales people on the road in front of customers or keeping field techs up-to-date with the most recent customer information is always a good thing and helps generate more revenue for companies.
Patterson (Handango): I think what it comes down to is that waiting is a lot more fun or productive than it used to be. That dreaded commute on the train or waiting on queue turns into something you’ll look forward to if you can play that game on your phone and battle the bad guy on the next level, or text with friends, or do any of a hundred different things on your phone.. With increasing mobility and wireless speed and connectivity, increased mobility means that life isn’t tethered to one place.
PressPass: Has not being tethered had an impact on your life?
Patterson (Handango): Definitely. The most immediate example is my daughter, who recently had her first ballet recital. In “The Wizard of Oz,” she was a “flutterfly” that flies around Dorothy when she lands in Munchkinland. The recital was at 2 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, so I left the office at 1 o’clock with no qualms because I had my PDA with me. Right in the middle of the recital, work-related problems started to arise. I was able to respond discreetly during intermission. It really underscored how far we’ve come. Ten years ago if something had gone wrong on a Friday afternoon while I was out I would have been the bad guy on Monday morning. Mobile technology helps me balance my professional and personal lives more successfully. I can handle a crisis at work and still be a good father.
PressPass: Mary Rose Becker, how do MPAC members influence Microsoft?
Becker (Microsoft): Partner satisfaction has risen since the inception of MPAC. People throughout our division regard MPAC partners as strategic and important. Our openness and sensitivity to them has created a stronger relationship and drives critical input into our product life cycle. There is now a much stronger, more formalized channel for input, which is crucial to us as we continue to innovate. At the last meeting, we offered a developer track to our partner companies and paired them with our own developers. This was very powerful. Our own developers got one on one feedback from their key peers within the partner organizations. Since that session, our developers continue to ask me everyday when the next MPAC meeting is. This match making was a great success.
PressPass: How do you envision MPAC’s future?
Becker (Microsoft): Looking back over our first year, I’m very pleased with our results. We’ve built the foundation and the infrastructure to scale to the next level. Based on partner feedback, we are anticipating expansion and growth in other regions throughout the world.
PressPass: What’s your favorite part of MPAC?
Becker (Microsoft): It’s definitely the partners. When you have a partnership based on mutual goals and commitment, it breeds success. I work with some of the greatest people in the Mobile industry, and it’s what motivates me every day, all day. The MPAC members are an important part of our extended Microsoft family. They are great colleagues, and also great friends. Working with them inspires us every single day.