WPC10: Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer Makes 22 Cloud Claims
What a difference 12 months makes. At last year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC09), the software giant spent most of the show evangelizing Office 2010 and Windows 7. Fast forward to this week’s WPC10, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is rallying channel partners around the All In cloud computing strategy, which includes Windows Azure and Microsoft BPOS. Here are 22 highlights from Ballmer’s keynote this morning.
Roughly 14,000 attendees — including 10,000 channel partners — are attending this week’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. Ballmer and Microsoft’s Channel Leaders took the stage earlier today. The keynote highlights include:
1. Partners Have Cloud Momentum: Outgoing Microsoft Channel Chief Allison Watson mentioned numerous partners worldwide that are profiting from BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) including SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. The VAR Guy will take a closer look at those cloud partners later today.
2. Channel Chief Hand Off: Allison Watson officially handed her channel chief hat to Jon Roskill.
3. Product Pitches: Roskill briefly mentioned Microsoft’s traditional product lineup — Office 2010, Windows 7 and Windows Server. But Roskill quickly transitioned his thoughts to the cloud opportunity.
4. Cloud Pitch: This is the year, with the billions of dollars that Microsoft is spending on R&D, that Microsoft’s cloud channel effort takes off, says Roskill.
5. Business Transformation: Roskill says Microsoft has the tools and programs to help VARs transform their businesses for the cloud.
6. Oh Cloud: “We’ve been shouting about “Oh Cloud” at WPC10 for about four years,” says Ballmer. “But 2010 is the year when the opportunity and transition to the cloud is absolutely clear.”
7. Big Crowd: Ballmer says WPC10’s attendance, at 14,000 people, is the largest ever — suggesting that the economy has improved and partners will move forward with Microsoft into the cloud.
8. Accelerating Partnerships: Ballmer says: “We remain built entirely on the back of the relationships we have with partners.” The VAR Guy wonders: Do partners fully agree with that assertion?
9. Windows Azure: “A year ago, we had zero people using Azure. Today, there are more than 10,000 paying customers and partners building applications and moving forward with Azure,” says Ballmer.
10. Virtualization: Ballmer says Microsoft’s Hyper-V now commands 30 percent of the virtualization market. The VAR Guy wonders if VMware agrees with that figure.
11. New Opportunities: “The cloud really will create — for all of us — new opportunities and new responsibilities,” says Ballmer. For software developers, the cloud allows software developers to go global. The customer mission is to take costs out of IT to invest more in new applications. That’s where the cloud presents big opportunities, Ballmer says.
12. New Responsibilities: When our customers start putting their data in our systems there’s a need to do a better and better job on reliability, privacy and security, notes Ballmer. Microsoft’s all in cloud strategy addresses those challenges, he adds.
13. True Believers: Microsoft’s cloud customers include Starbucks, McDonalds, 3m and Coca Cola Enterprises, Ballmer says.
14. Bing – Boom or Bomb?: Microsoft says Bing’s market share has grown from 8.5 to 11.5 percent in the search industry. Ballmer says Bing has taught Microsoft quite a bit about the cloud industry. But The VAR Guy wonders: Is Bing really worth Microsoft’s deep investments?
15. Social Networks: Microsoft intends to blend Office and SharePoint with social networking to improve private conversations between employees, business workgroups and partners, says Ballmer.
16. Dynamics CRM Online: Ballmer says he’s proud of Microsoft’s SaaS CRM system. But The VAR Guy wonders: How is it really performing vs. Salesforce.com and NetSuite? Hmm….
17. The Cloud Drives Server Advancements: One of the things we’ve learned, when you want a high-scale, highly dynamic service you need a whole different approach to building the data center” vs. classic enterprise applications, says Ballmer.
Microsoft is scaling Windows Live service to hundreds of millions of people, Ballmer notes. “It’s driven us to redesign our infrastructure,” says Ballmer. The result: Windows Azure and SQL Azure will offer those scalable benefits to partners.
18. Windows Azure Meets Private Clouds: Ballmer says Windows Azure and SQL Azure capabilities will ultimately be available within private enterprises on Windows Server. Details later this week. Ballmer says there’s a big difference between a cloud infrastructure and a virtualization infrastructure, a subtle dig aimed at VMware.
19. The Cloud Wants Smarter Devices: Ballmer doesn’t believe the cloud will shift end-customers to pure thin clients. “Time and time again we’ve seen the advantage of the rich client,” says Ballmer. “The world of tomorrow is the world of smart cloud talking to smart clients.” Translation: Ballmer says PC-type technologies won’t die.
Ballmer pointed to Microsoft’s ongoing efforts with Xbox and Windows Phone 7 as examples of smarter devices linked to the cloud, though he assured partners that Microsoft will continue to support thin clients, too. Windows 7-based Slates (Tablet PCs) and Windows Phone 7 will also remain a big priority, Ballmer adds.
Slate will be “a consumer-oriented device that fits and is manageable within enterprise IT,” says Ballmer, a slight jab at Apple’s consumer-centric iPad strategy. Asus, Dell, Toshiba, Sony and others will introduce Slates with keyboards and without keyboards, says Ballmer.
The VAR Guy doesn’t recall Ballmer mentioning HP on that Slate list. HP, you’ll recall, recently acquired Palm and WebOS for possible use on tablets…
20. Windows Phone 7: “We missed a generation” with smart phones, Ballmer concedes. But he claimed Windows Phone 7 will get Microsoft back in the game in homes and in enterprise IT. “We want consumers to ask their IT departments” for Slate and Windows Phone 7 devices, Ballmer adds.
21. Silence on Rivals: Ballmer didn’t take any direct vocal shots at rivals. No mention of Google, VMware, Apple, Amazon and other emerging rivals. Smart move. No need to put the spotlight on rivals when you’ve got an audience of 14,000 Microsoft supporters. Oops… Ballmer just took shots at IBM and Cisco Systems.
22. Reality Check: The average Microsoft partner employs 10 to 15 people, Ballmer says. And partners have helped Windows 7 succeed as PC shipments rise 18 percent. Translation: Ballmer says Microsoft can continue to innovate if partners continue to drive Microsoft solutions to end-customers.
Ballmer also promised to listen to channel partners about potential conflicts as the cloud strategy evolves. “If you don’t want to move to the cloud we’re not your folks,” says Ballmer. But if you want to bet on the cloud, Microsoft is the safest bet, Ballmer told partners.
The VAR Guy will share additional insights throughout the day.