Last week in Toronto was the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). While I did not attend in person, I watched the majority of the Keynotes via the Digital WPC site. My company, Catapult Systems, was well represented at the conference and our sales, marketing, and executive do a tremendous job of ensuring that they make our Microsoft contacts feel like MVP’s at their own conference. The Catapult team does a great job meeting with the key Microsoft people during this week and ensuring Microsoft knows we are "The Microsoft Consulting Company".

At WPC 12, Catapult was named the Worldwide Systems Management Partner of the year! This is a very nice feather in the cap! Catapult has been award Partner of the year four times for several categories. Catapult is a great company, a great Microsoft partner and I am very happy and proud to work for them. Here is a link to an article from the Redmond Partner Channel Magazine touting Catapult as the 7th most competent Microsoft partners in the world, 3rd in the US!

Back to the WPC 12 recap, the entire conference contained very positive news overall for Microsoft for Partners. Microsoft greatly values their partners and this is the time they show their love! One big announcement for the Office 365 platform is that Microsoft will now allow partners to fully re-sell and bill customers for Office 365 (The Office 365 Open Program). This has been something that many of the partners that work with SMB (Small and Mid-Sized Business) clients. I think this is probably good for the SMB partners and customers, but for Enterprise clients and Partners I do not see the fit. For one it will require a consultant company like Catapult to take on the burden of billing and collections from the clients and still being responsible to pay the up-stream bill from Microsoft. Also most Enterprise clients are not going to fully out-source the entire IT services. An SMB client might want to totally get out of the IT business and this is the benefit to the SMB partners, they can bundle into the direct billing pricing some managed services to fully take over the IT department for the client. There are other reasons why direct billing might not work or be available to Enterprise clients but I apologize I cannot divulge at this time due to my MVP and Catapult NDA agreements.

One other great announcement for partners around Office 365 revolves around Partner of Record (POR) fees. A little background, a Microsoft partner like say Catapult, which is a Cloud Accelerate Partner, and does the implementation for Office 365 is able to be set by the client as the POR the Partner receive points on the client’s license revenue from Microsoft. Prior to the announcement at WPC, a Partner received 18% of the license revenue the first year and 6% for the subsequent years. What Microsoft announced at WPC is that the first year Partner revenue is increasing based on the size of the client deployment. For deployments over 150 seats the first year revenue is increasing to 20%, 500 plus seats to 22% and 2,500 plus seats to 23%. This is a very good deal, it incentivizes the Partners to chase and work with larger clients for Office 365!

Microsoft has stated that they feel Office 365 will eclipse SharePoint as the fastest growing offers in the history of Microsoft! This is huge, and this means that Microsoft is taking the gloves off in the fight for the cloud versus Google (if you haven’t seen it, SlingRock, a Catapult company, created this great Video to explain the difference between Google Apps and Office 365). Basically Microsoft has put the Cloud as the number 1 priority for the upcoming fiscal 2013 year with Office 365 and Azure in the public cloud and Server 2012 and System Center (which can also manage Public Cloud) in the private cloud space!

Oh and did I mention the new Windows 8 client, which will be RTM in early August so customers on an EA agreement will be able to download it then. For the general consumers, Windows 8 (and hopefully Office 2013) will be available in October. With Windows 8 client, Windows Phone 8, and the Wave 15 (SharePoint, Exchange, Lync and Office 365 next versions) this coming year, Microsoft has one, if not the, biggest launches/refreshes even! This coupled with the recent launch of Systems Center 2012 products and SQL 2012 basically means that almost every product in the Microsoft suite has be completely redesigned and launched within a calendar year!

And one more thing, Windows Azure, the service that now allows virtual machines to run in the cloud! I am working on setting up my entire lab within Windows Azure and will be blogging about this!