Q&A: “Business Value” Launch of Windows Vista, 2007 Office System and Exchange Server 2007 Creates Groundbreaking Opportunities for Partners

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 30, 2006 – Today’s simultaneous release of the Windows Vista operating system, the 2007 Microsoft Office system client and server applications, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 is unprecedented not only for the business value it brings to customers but also for the opportunities this combined launch creates for Microsoft’s industry partners.

These flagship Microsoft products are being supported by a worldwide ecosystem of nearly 650,000 partners, from independent software vendors to systems integrators to technology developers.

PressPass recently sat down with the general managers of these respective Microsoft product teams – Kim Akers for Exchange Server Group, Brad Goldberg for Windows Vista, Kirk Koenigsbauer for Office servers and Takeshi Numoto for Office client applications – to learn more about partners’ role in today’s “Business Value” launch.

PressPass: Today marks the first time that new versions of Microsoft’s three flagship products have been launched on the same day. What makes this combined “Business Value” launch groundbreaking?

Koenigsbauer: It’s the synergy among Microsoft Office, Windows Vista and Microsoft Exchange Server. Together, they deliver the core platform for a people-ready business – one that puts an organization’s employees at the center of driving business outcomes and success. Another unprecedented aspect of today’s combined launch is the sheer innovation behind these individual products. The new Office server lineup integrates seamlessly with Windows Vista, Exchange Server 2007 and the familiar Office client applications to simplify how people work together, improve their business insights and secure their critical information.

Knowing that IT organizations don’t want to have to update employees’ desktops multiple times, we’ve further streamlined and simplified the rollout of Microsoft Office technologies to reduce companies’ overall IT deployment and management costs. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the 2007 Microsoft Office system suite also provide a solid platform for our customers and partners to build specialized business solutions.

Numoto: Windows Vista, Microsoft Office and Exchange will redefine how an organization’s people address the needs of the changing workplace. In addition to what Kirk mentioned, this includes meeting the transparency and compliance needs of an organization without hampering employees’ productivity. We have made sure that these products work together extremely well right out of the box, so customers can realize value immediately.

Akers: This monumental launch allows our partners and customers to harness the power of greater innovation, collaboration and productivity in the ever-changing landscape of today’s workplace. With this launch, Microsoft is providing a new level of messaging and collaboration that brings together Exchange Server 2007 with applications like Microsoft Office SharePoint Server to create an experience that puts more productivity tools and capabilities in employees’ hands. It’s going to change the way we work.

Goldberg: I’d also add that Windows Vista is designed to be more secure, reliable and easier to use than any previous version of the operating system. Combined with the rich new features and interoperability delivered in the 2007 Office and Exchange Server 2007 releases, Microsoft customers and partners can adopt this new platform with tremendous confidence and get immediate value from it. We’ve also provided tools and guidance for deployment earlier than ever before, so customers can start today planning for their deployments.

PressPass: What role have Microsoft partners played in developing these new product releases?

Koenigsbauer: We’ve been fortunate to have a very good mix of partners involved in our various advisory boards, technical previews and other feedback loops throughout the development life cycle for these products. Since they work so closely with customers, our partners have a great feel for what different types of organizations most want to gain from the latest versions of Microsoft software. One particularly influential area of partner feedback for the server group was that we make Microsoft Office a stronger, more extensible infrastructure offering so that partners can build very robust applications and services on top of it.

Goldberg: Thousands of hardware and software partners have been involved in testing Windows Vista throughout its development. We have gathered their feedback about the operating system to improve the product and to enable broad, immediate compatibility with partners’ technology offerings at launch. With Windows Vista, we’ve done more than ever before to partner with independent software and hardware vendors and corporate developers to address application and hardware compatibility concerns, so customers can get started faster with their deployment cycle. This includes involving partners in our early engagement programs and giving our partners and customers early, ongoing access to Windows Vista builds through the Community Technology Preview (CTP) program and our release of the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) for identifying and assessing potential application issues. Customers will also see evidence of our engagement with the ecosystem in the Certified for Windows Vista logo program, which identifies software and hardware that has met Microsoft’s stringent requirements to ensure it delivers a high-quality user experience.

Numoto: Microsoft fundamentally has a partner-based business model, so partners obviously are crucial in terms of helping ensure our products really meet the needs of customers. We depend heavily on our partners to take the platform technologies that we deliver and tailor them to customers’ specific needs in areas ranging from enterprise content management to business intelligence.

A great example of how we’ve taken partners’ feedback to heart is by expanding our Office Trial program, which allows original equipment manufacturers and channel resellers to provide the 2007 Office system on their PCs without incurring any upfront costs. Customers who buy one of these PCs can try out the new Microsoft Office without obligation; if they like it, they simply obtain a product key from the reseller. As a result, both the OEM and the channel reseller get a commission for that transaction of Microsoft Office. Besides expanding Office Trial to 15 countries, we’ve created a companion program called Office Ready that allows our small-business customers to try out the 2007 Office system in this same way.

Akers: We started working with partners in April 2005 as part of the Exchange Server 2007 Technology Adopter Program (TAP), which benefits everyone. For Microsoft, we get early feedback from our partners, who are on the front lines with our customers. For partners, they work closely with our product advisory groups, bringing real street-level intelligence to how customers will use the technology, and what will benefit them the most. That helps our partners to deliver products they know will bring real business value to their customers.

PressPass: What new or expanded opportunities do these new releases create for partners?

Koenigsbauer: There are many avenues for software development partners to extend the capabilities of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, which is really the glue that holds together Microsoft’s overall investments in technology for content management, business intelligence, collaboration and other key business areas. We have a number of partners creating specialized applications to help manage workflows, reporting, forms and search capabilities, among others. The latest Microsoft Office server releases also will open a lot of new deployment and training opportunities for our systems integration partners.

Numoto: For our partners that cater to the needs of small and midmarket business customers, the completely revamped user experience created by Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system creates a strong opportunity to show customers the value of upgrading their desktops. We expect this to drive a lot of business for our implementation and systems integration as well as for hardware providers. Among partners that specialize in serving larger midmarket and enterprise customers, there are opportunities for even more sophisticated types of solution development, such as integrating Microsoft Office client applications with Exchange and SharePoint to support specific business processes and connecting to back-end systems with Microsoft Office business applications leveraging XML.

Akers: Partners tell me that their relationship with Microsoft has opened new doors with new customers, enabling partners to grow their businesses. For example, we have companies partnering with us on Unified Messaging, which is helping to expand their businesses by introducing them to a new market opportunity in voice-enabled technologies. Additionally, our partners benefit from hands-on learning experience early in the process, which in turn directly improves their ability to deliver robust solutions to customers.

Goldberg: Microsoft has more than 640,000 partners building PCs, software applications or devices that take advantage of Windows. We expect Windows Vista to stimulate demand for the great new products our partners are developing. These include new PCs with the latest innovations to help customers secure data; new applications that create more productive and visual experiences for users; and new devices that extend the latest advances in networking capabilities in Windows. There are more than 35 million developers who build applications that run on Windows. One of the most exciting things to watch will be the new apps that emerge that we can’t even begin to imagine today.

PressPass: How can partners start to capitalize on these opportunities?

Akers: The release of Exchange Server 2007, Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system creates a new opportunity for partners to expand on the technologies of this platform. Our partners can sell a wider range of technologies to a wider range of customers, allowing them to achieve an economy of scale they may not reach on their own.

Customers are recognizing the value of new enhancements and innovations such as Exchange Unified Messaging, and partners will continue to be instrumental in helping our customers deploy and integrate these new technologies. Last year alone, one of our partners delivered US$4 billion of Microsoft-related services globally; we expect this to grow significantly as a result of the new products.

Goldberg: We’ve assembled a full arsenal of marketing and sales resources, tools and training to equip partners to profit from the Windows Vista opportunity. These include scenario marketing guidance and materials that are available on the partner extranet Web site, as well as technical tools and product support. We’ve also trained more than 4,500 systems integrators on Windows Vista so they will be ready to undertake massive upgrades at launch. Lastly, we’ve created a new Windows Desktop Deployment competency that is the first Microsoft Partner Program specialization focused on Windows client deployment. My recommendation to partners is to focus on certification of their applications or devices so customers can be confident in the experience that these products will provide on Windows Vista. Partners can learn more about the Windows Vista logo program by visiting the Innovate on Windows Vista site for software (http://microsoft.mrmpslc.com/InnovateOnWindowsVista/) and the Windows Hardware Developer Central site for devices (http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/getstart/default.mspx).

Koenigsbauer: Partners should learn as much as possible about the enhanced features in Vista, Exchange and Office so that they can begin to recognize where these products naturally mesh with the partner’s own offerings. For partners seeking to get involved with Office, one of the best places to start is on the 2007 Microsoft Office System Solution Drive (http://www.microsoft.com/office/showcase/solutiondrive/). We created this Web site to help partners plan, develop and market their own offerings that complement the 2007 Office system. It also explains the key business scenarios that Microsoft is targeting in the new Office release so that partners can more effectively align their business strategies with Microsoft’s sales and marketing initiatives.

Along with getting firmly grounded in what these products can do, partners can take advantage of many different training programs built around the latest “Business Value” products. These include a new Microsoft Partner Program competency focused on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, which systems integrators and independent software vendors can earn to demonstrate their specialized expertise in deploying and adding value on top of SharePoint.

Numoto: I would reinforce the importance of partners trying out these products for themselves. The 2007 Office system is highly experiential, and we’ve invested in ways to make it very easy for both partners and customers to try out these products by clicking the “Test-Drive” link on the Microsoft Office product home page (http://www.microsoft.com/office). Trial versions of nearly all the Microsoft Office client applications and server products are available for download, and all of those trials will be convertible to fully licensed versions.

Partners also can become certified in the new Data Visualization competency, which is built around Microsoft Office Visio 2007, so they will be well-equipped to help customers more rapidly understand and analyze the huge volumes of data that come at them every day.

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