Microsoft Whacks Its Partner Pi�ata

Microsoft on Tuesday opened its toy box for partners gathered to attend the company’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver, with the aim of helping them better serve their joint customers – and keeping them happy.

Microsoft also announced that the company will launch Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 in Los Angeles on February 27 next year, kicking off a “launch wave” of hundreds of like events worldwide.

Windows Server 2008, code-named Longhorn, will eventually include Microsoft’s next foray into the server virtualization market — the Viridian hypervisor .

But for the partner show, Microsoft unveiled a list of new and updated programs for partners, including an updated Office Live Solution Developers program as well as new desktop and SharePoint deployment planning services programs.

The list also includes a new Microsoft Office Business Applications (OBA) OnRamp program, meant to get developers up to speed more swiftly building solutions based on Office 2007 and 2003 as well as other key products such as Office SharePoint Server.

In the area of products, Microsoft  announced this week it is shipping the release version of its System Center Essentials 2007 management bundle for mid-sized businesses, and will release System Center Remote Operations Manager (ROM) 2007 to manufacturing by the end of July.

ROM 2007, a new member of Microsoft’s System Center family of management tools, is designed to work with System Center Essentials 2007 to help partners remotely update and manage mid-sized customers’ infrastructures, according to a Microsoft statement.

Microsoft also plans to back its new OBA OnRamp program to provide partners with technical, marketing and sales assistance with a multi-million dollar investment, Daz Wilkin, program manager in Microsoft’s platform strategy group, told The company shipped two new OBA Reference Application Packs earlier this month in preparation for the partner conference.

Additionally, the company plans to distribute 10,000 OBA Quickstart kits to attendees at the conference. The Quickstart kits contain two DVDs – one technical and the other with a business focus, Wilkin added. Also, the company is starting a new Web site that aims to provide partners with an online marketplace and community dubbed OBACentral.

Speaking of Quickstart programs, the company said that, in just a year, 3,500 partners have joined its Quickstart for Microsoft Search partner program. Registered partners can use their partner IDs to log on to the Quickstart for Microsoft Search extranet.

Meanwhile, as a means to promote its growing Live software-plus-services initiative, the company announced that Microsoft Office Live is adding two new offerings for partners — Office Live Marketplace and Office Live Affiliate Network. The company also said it will give partners more access to Office Live customers.

Among other investments directed toward strengthening its partner relationships, Microsoft is also spending $5 million for a program it calls the Information Worker Partner Skills Accelerator. The program will be available from August 15 through December 31, 2007 to partners who are Information Worker-certified. The program provides online technical courses that the company says cover nine Information Worker competencies.

Finally, Microsoft launched a new Desktop Deployment Planning Services (DDPS) program, which is available immediately, and is planning to roll out a similar SharePoint Deployment Planning Services (SDPS) program that is set to be available in January.

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