Microsoft Channel Chief Concedes: I Need to Learn About MSPs

It was a brief but revealing comment. During a press briefing at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 (WPC10) today, new Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill (pictured) described his views on VARs, distributors, integrators and other members on the channel partner ecosystem. Then, in an unsolicited comment, he added: "MSP... it's a piece [of the channel] I need to learn more about." Rather than being depressed by Roskill's comment, I came away impressed. Here's why.

When Roskill entered the press meeting, he and I spoke on the side for a few moments. Roskill mentioned he had read MSPmentor's open memo to him. Roskill said he agreed with the memo -- which called on Microsoft's channel team spend more time with MSPs, among other recommendations.

Roskill is a long-time Microsoft veteran but he's been channel chief for less than a month. He's drinking from a fire hose -- navigating the existing Microsoft Partner program and new announcements here at the conference.

Sticking to the script, Roskill has been reinforcing CEO Steve Ballmer's core cloud messages to partners -- Get in now or get left behind. During today's press conference, Roskill described why he's upbeat about BPOS, Azure and the forthcoming Azure Appliance for partners. (I'll post a video recap, later.)

But Roskill's actions may wind up speaking louder than his words. During a keynote session on Tuesday, Roskill's portion of the agenda was hit and miss. On stage under the Tuesday spotlight, he looked like an Olympic skater still getting a feel for the ice.

New Day, New Audience

During the far smaller press conference today (Wednesday), Roskill looked at ease. He even took a few moments to walk the room, shake hands with reporters and introduce himself during brief one-on-one hellos with about 20 members of the media. Some media members may question Microsoft's channel cloud strategy. But Roskill welcomed the dialog -- which is a solid first step as Channel Chief.

No doubt, Roskill still has more work to do. Portions of the media asked -- multiple times -- why Microsoft won't let partners manage end-customer billing for BPOS. Each time, Roskill said he's listening to partner feedback and media inquiries, and Microsoft has adjusted its BPOS strategy from time to time based on that feedback. But ultimately, it sounds like Microsoft thinks it would be too difficult to give each partner so much individual control over billing.

Good Listener?

That said, Roskill is an approachable guy. He's obviously reading online feedback from the media and from partners. During the 30-minute press conference, he made that 15-second admission about needing to learn more about MSPs.

I respect the fact that he said it, and I look forward to seeing how Microsoft attempts to move forward with MSPs.

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