Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has confirmed plans for Windows 8 "Blue" -- details of which may surface at the Build 2013 developer conference (June 26-28, San Francisco). But here's the twist: So far, most VARs and MSPs have yet to offer Windows 8 to their customers. The latest proof emerged at last week's CharTec conference in Bakersfield, Calif. So can Windows 8 Blue spark some channel interest? Hmmm...
Let's start with a more pressing question: What exactly is Blue? As Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott put it: "Blue is the code-name for a wave of updates to Windows 8/RT, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012, and Windows services such as Outlook.com and SkyDrive. These updates will be released roughly one year after the general availability of each of these platforms, at roughly (but not exactly) the same time."
Translation: The VAR Guy's own headline and intro paragraph are a bit misleading. Blue is more than a Windows 8 update. The code could collectively benefit tablet, mobile, desktop and server partners.
Partner Reality Check
Right now, Windows Server 2012 partners seem pretty darn happy. That release, backed by Hyper-V enhancements, has allowed Microsoft's channel partners to compete more effectively against VMware's virtualization business. But so far, Microsoft's channel partners aren't benefitting much from Windows 8 or Surface tablets.
A case in point: At last week's CharTec conference for MSPs and VARs, most attendees said they had yet to sell a Windows 8 system to customers. Moreover, ARRC Technology -- CharTec's sister business -- has the capacity to build about 50 custom PCs for customers each business day. So far, none of those system builds has involved Windows 8. Predictably, Windows 7 remains the default operating system image for ARRC's customers.
At the same time, some VARs and MSPs have started to use Surface Pro tablets as a default replacement for traditional notebooks and iPads. But there's no partner program for Surface devices -- though that could change when Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 arrives.
In the meantime, Microsoft is waxing poetic to the market -- assuring anyone who will listen that Windows 8, Windows Phone, Azure, Office 365 and more are succeeding. Microsoft Corporate VP Frank X Shaw is particularly outspoken. At first glance his blog entry reads like a puff piece that doesn't dare mention continued challenges vs. Apple and Google. But it is difficult to argue with Shaw's core point: Microsoft does have a remarkable foundation of products in the market.
The VAR Guy's spin: Microsoft's challenges have less to do with technology and more to do with business execution and channel engagement. Office 365's initial rollout to the channel in 2011 was shaky at best but has since improved considerably. Windows 8's channel rollout was bad -- packed with non-touch screen devices all over the retail market. Surface's channel rollout has been non-existent.
Anybody else seeing a trend? Even if Blue technology is fantastic, Microsoft has got to get the channel thinking green with Redmond again...