CEO Ballmer takes the stage as WPC begins in Toronto
TORONTO – Microsoft kicks off the 2012 edition of its annual Worldwide Partner Conference Monday morning with a series of keynotes from the Air Canada Centre here.
As usual, leading off the event will be CEO Steve Ballmer, with other top executives joining him to discuss some of the component pieces of what Microsoft is calling its biggest launch year ever – one which is expected to see the launch of both of its flagship products, Windows and Office.
Ballmer takes the stage shortly after 9:00 am Eastern to get things started, so expect the liveblog to start updating shortly afterwards.
After a big Cirque du Soleil introduction, Microsoft worldwide channel chief Jon Roskill rides a bike out takes the stage to begin his third WPC as host.
Roskill reminds the crowd that it’s been eight years since WPC was here, and the show has “more than tripled” since then – from 5,000 attendees to 16,000-plus this year.
Roskill’s sharing some stats from the event: 4,391 first-time attendees, and 63 who’ve been to 10 or more WPCs, although Roskill suspects there are more. “This is my 14th WPC.”
“Last year, I stood on the stage and told you that we were being massively underestimated,” Roskill says, but now press and stock markets are starting to pay attention to what’s going on in Redmond. This week, the company is aiming to get the word out that something big is going on — something that Roskill says attendees all know, but the company’s trying to get the word out further.
This year, he predicts, Microsoft and its partners are going to be recognized as “key leaders” in cloud business software. “This is the year we make it happen.”
“I am so excited you’re here. We’ve got so much great stuff to show you. This is my favourite week of the eyar,” Roskill says, thanks partners for attending, and then hands over the stage.
Interesting. Ballmer is out, but seems to be doing his keynote interview-format this year.
“It’s been a phenomenal year for Microsoft and our partners,” Ballmer says. The company’s partner business grew 13 per cent last year, he said.
The number of partners selling Microsoft cloud solutions is growing 10 per cent per month, Ballmer says – adding nearly a thousand new cloud partners every month.
“This is an epic year,” Ballmer says, when you think about launches coming in the company’s recently-begun fiscal. Windows 8 “will kick off the most epic year in Microsoft history, and that’s coming off a pretty exciting year.”
Ballmer said this year – and this year’s WPC – will have something to grab every partner of every variety.
But there are two big takeaways from WPC this year: Windows 8 and Office 365.
Windows 8 is “exploding in its momentum” Ballmer says, “it’s simply the biggest deal from our company in the last 17 years.”
It’s a big deal for customers, a huge opportunity for partners, and a very big deal for Microsoft, Ballmer says.
And to elaborate on the Office 365 side of things, out comes Kurt DelBene, who heads up the Office group.
Office has had a big year in the cloud, at the endpoint and in servers, DelBene says. Office 2010 is the “most popular version of Office thus far.” It’s being deployed at a five times faster rate than Office 2007. “For the first time , Office is on over a billion user’s desktops today,” he says.
Big wins for Office 365 include Lowe’s home repair retailers, with more than 200,000 users, and Burger King, which DelBene says “got a Whopper of a deal,” thus fulfilling this morning’s bad pun quota.
Now the company’s is focusing on “fine tuning” Office 365 for certain verticals – last week launched both Office 365 for Education and for Government users.
DelBene says that partners want two things out of Office 365 – make it easier to sell, and make it more profitable. The latter of the two gets a round of applause.
He announces that the company is today introducing Office 365 Open – for the first time, partners will be able to bill customers directly for Office 365. And that gets a huge round of applause – that’s something partners have been asking for since the launch of BPOS.
It also allows partners to present customers with a single bill for Office 365 and the partner value-add around it.
With an incentive program, partners can make up 23 per cent on first-year Office 365 sales.
On the “broader cloud” subject, Ballmer says Microsoft is working to provide partners with the only solution that be on-prem, vendor-hosted or partner-hosted, with connection between all of the above.
“This hybrid strategy from Windows to Office to Microsoft Dynamics is pretty fundamental to our value proposition for our customers and our partners.”
Onto the subject of the Yammer acquisition: DelBene says that social is “a key element” in collaboration and information-sharing in an organization. “We get a best of breed product, a viral adoption model that lets people get started super-quickly, and we get an incredibly talented team that knows this space super-well.”
Yammer already integrates with SharePoint, but DelBene says there are opportunities to integrate with other products as well – into the Office client software, into Skype, etc. He promises a roadmap in the near future.
“If you haven’t played with Yammer yet, I’d advise you to do so,” he tells partners, telling them also to position it as a way to add value to existing SharePoint deployments.
“Yammer is really interesting and will be one of the big deals in terms of who we and our parnters and enterprises re-define our relationships,” Ballmer says. The whole model is “100 per cent compatible” with the consumerization of IT, since it lets social networks be built from the ground up – but it still offers privacy.
“We bring more Microsoft content onto Yammer, and it becomes an additional feeder system for leads,” Ballmer says. “It becomes a critical differentitation” as it becomes surfaced in Office, in Dynamics apps, etc.
Up next, Office 15. “It’s the most ambitious release we’ve ever done,” says DelBene. First time the company’s done desktop, mobile, servers, and services all at the same time. He promises more details later in the summer, but says that everything in Office 15 presents new opportunities to solution providers.
“This is going to be a bigger opportunity than Office 2010 is,” he said.
Ballmer says he’s running Windows 8 and Office 15 “all day every day” and he’s “completely in love” with the combination.
And with that, DelBene takes his leave.
Ballmer switches gears to talk about Windows. “It’s the heart and soul” of Microsoft, Ballmer says, joking that you may be able to find a YouTube video of him saying “Windows!” repeatedly and excitedly.
“We’re not exaggerating at all when we say that we’re re-imagining Windows” with Windows 8.
Ballmer says 350 million Windows PCs to be sold in the next 12 months, and Windows 8 represents new types of opportunities for all of the company’s partners, from the App Store approach for developers to deployment models for integration partners.
Ballmer addressing the Surface launch. “We might have to keep a few more things secret” in the future he says, after enjoying the launch.
Ballmer says that despite Surface being Microsoft hardware, the company’s commitment to third-party hardware products will not decrease. “There will be a spectrum of stunning Windows devices, so that every person can say ‘there’s a perfect Windows device for me,” he says. Ballmer says they may sell “a few” of the 350 million-plus devices being sold on Window, but the vast majority will be third-party hardware.
And with that, out comes Tami Reller from the Windows group, to talk moe about Windows 8 and devices around it.
But first, a thank you from Reller for the success of Windows 7 – more than 50 per cent of enterprise desktops today are running Windows 7, Reller says, giving credit to partners for it.
“You sold more than 630 million Windows 7 licenses to date.”
As Reller walks through the history of Windows 8 thus far, she’s surrounded by semi-circular table with a bunch of designed for Windows 8 machines.
Windows 8 is on track to release to manufacturers in the first week of August, Reller says — with general availability “at the end of October.”
Enterrise customers, meanwhile, will have access to “Windows 8 bits as early as August.”
It will be available in 109 languages across 231 markets worldwide.
Reller showing off a collection of Windows 8-ready hardware, including two touch-enabled Ultrabook-type devices from Acer, and two system-on-a-chip devices from Asus.
Windows 8 will be much more app-centric than in the past, Reller suggests. While some apps are built in — weather, IE, mail, etc. — it will “really come to life” once developers start developing apps and rolling them out through the Windows Store.
With RTM of Windows 8, the commerce engine for Windows Store will go live. “When Windows 8 launches, there will be apps for everything I want to do,” Reller says.
Businesses are “going to like having a choice of form factors, and a choice of architectures,” Reller says, switching to showing off Windows RT running on an ARM processor-based device.
Reller showing off “Windows to Go” — the ability to do a Windows 8 bootable desktop on a USB stick and take it with you wherever you go — the idea of the desktop-over-USB just got a big shot in the arm from Redmond. Has corporate apps, runs Bitlocker for security, takes full advantage of the resources of the host machine, but keeps all data on the stick, protected and secure.
And with that, Reller wraps up and hands it back over to Ballmer.
“There’s a lot that you can, there’s a lot we can do, and there’s just a ton that our customers will do” to drive life into Windows 8.
And there’s “one more thing,” Ballmer says – Microsoft is acquiring Perceptive Pixel, a large-format display vendor. “It opens up new poosibilities for business, for education, for productivity and collaboration.”
Ballmer says the company has a lot of work to do “to bring the prices down” for Perceptive Pixel’s gear, but that there tremendous opportunities for when it does so.
“It’s just a big Windows 8 tablet, but when it’s that size, you oooh and ahhhh at it,” Ballmer says — and so partners did when the demo zoomed in (with multi-touch) on Toronto.
Ballmer reiterates the company has to bring the prices down, but once it does, he sees huge opportunities in boardrooms, in education, and in offices. Get it low enough, and you’ve got huge potential in digital signage as well.
Funny moment. Ballmer’s mic dies, and as they’re trying to repair it, he says “Nobody even noticed.”
Ballmer now full-out screaming to the ACC without a mic. “I will not be held down!” he bellows.
A replacement mic still doesn’t work.
“For 15 years plus, we’ve been doing these partner meetings,” he says as the mic comes back to life. “All of the business we drive, we drive with our partner community. It only comes about in your hands. I will tell you that this year is the most important year, a year of unparalleled opportunity.”
“This will be the best year ever, ever, ever to be a Micsoroft partner, to get out there and make a difference,” he says. “You’ll have tools to go up against anybody, on the desktop, in the data centre and in people’s hands. Let’s take advantage of it, and let’s succeed together.”
And with that, Ballmer’s keynote is over and Jon Roskill is back out to take over proceedings.
“Since I took this job two years, [Office 365 open is] the thing you’ve asked for the most,” Roskill says. But the company is also sticking with its other models – advisor, syndication, SPLA, cloud developer and EA. “We’ve got the most complete go-to-market around the cloud that anyone has had in history,” he says.
And with that, the keynotes are wrapping u – and so does this morning’s livelbog. Expect more coverage from WPC throughout the day – and the week – here on ChannelBuzz.ca.