As Microsoft’s third and final day of keynotes came to an end at the Staples Center here, the duty fell – as it always does during the WPC wrapup – to worldwide channel chief Jon Roskill to announce the destination for which some 15,000 Microsoft partners will be headed this time next year.
And for many Canadian attendees (your humble blogger included), the introduction video featuring a familiar skyline brought smiles.
This is actually the third time Microsoft Canada has had a chance to host Microsoft’s annual partner gathering. The company was headed for The Big Smoke for the 2003 edition of its Fusion event, but hastily changed in the spring of 2003 due to the outbreak of SARS in the city. The show was moved to New Orleans’ sprawling Morial Convention Center for that year and held in October as opposed to its usual summer date. That was also the first year that Microsoft held integrated its major partner-centric shows into a single conference.
Microsoft made good on its promise to come to Toronto, though, the next year, after the city had been give a clean bill of health, bringing the combined July WPC that Microsoft partners have come to know ever since to Toronto.
It was a memorable event – the introduction of then-new channel chief Allison Watson, the executive who would dramatically redefine the role from 2004 until her job switch with Jon Roskill last year.
Other highlights of the first Toronto WPC included the announcement of significant increases in spending on partners, new partner-centric end user advertising campaigns, and additional major announcement covering both SMB and enterprise business lines.
It also featured a memorable Canadian Party played by Sloan, and a show-ending partner celebration at the SkyDome (when it still was the SkyDome) that was headlined by Pat Benatar.
However, it was a completely different show back then in terms of scale – at the time, WPC was less than 5,000 attendees, scarcely more than a down payment on modern WPC attendance numbers.
With the announcement, Microsoft Canada begins the process of ramping up to hosting the event. This year’s WPC attendance in Los Angeles is 480, up from 380 last year, but Microsoft Canada president Eric Gales said the company wants to “set a new bar” for Canadian attendance when the event hits Toronto.
“This is one of the largest conferences in North America, in terms of number of people and the amount of time it runs,” said Microsoft Canada channel chief Corinne Sharp. “It’s kind of like we’re running the Olympics for our partners. That’s how big this is.”
And already, Canadian partners are starting to make plans – more partners are planning to bring more people to the show, particularly those in the Toronto area, Microsoft Canada SMS&P chief Neil Tanner said. They’re also looking to see if there are ways to use the size and scale of the show to generate customer demand at the same time, he reported.
Among other plans already being developed, Gales said the company is looking for ways to make the Toronto event more inclusive for the company’s French-speaking partners following a record turnout this year in Los Angeles for the Francophone partner community.