Microsoft and MSPs: Two Missed Opportunities

For the second time in a month, Microsoft has failed to have a presence at a major managed services conference. Microsoft's absence from the two conferences -- ConnectWise Partner Summit and N-able Partner Summit -- is rather surprising to me, especially when I consider recent MSP-oriented moves by Google. Still, Microsoft does plan to attend the MSPAlliance's upcoming MSPWorld event. Here's what Microsoft is doing wrong (and right) in the managed services market.

First, let me clarify: I am not suggesting that Google has a stronger MSP story than Microsoft. But I am stating that Google seems to be engaging the next-generation IT channel while Microsoft is still sorting out an MSP-oriented communications strategy.

Consider this: Amid Windows 7's launch and growing questions about Microsoft's SaaS channel strategy, the software giant had a prime opportunity to attend N-able Partner Summit (350 MSPs and VARs) and ConnectWise Partner Summit (900 VARs and MSPs). Instead, Microsoft skipped both events.

Meanwhile, Google is here this week at the ConnectWise Partner Summit.

Sure, plenty of VARs and MSPs remain skeptical of the Google Apps reseller program. But Google Apps Channel Manager Jeff Ragusa says more than 400 partners have embraced Google Apps, and Ragusa is describing a shift from network-centric managed services to application-centric managed services at the ConnectWise Partner Summit.

Whether you cooperate or compete with Google, the search giant's message is starting to reach MSPs.

Taking the Stage

What's Microsoft's managed services pitch? MSPs may find out if they attend the MSPAlliance MSPWorld conference Nov. 12 and 13 in Las Vegas. Microsoft is scheduled to keynote the event, which had 200 registrants (and climbing) as of October 2009, according to the MSPAlliance's  Twitter Feed.

No doubt. there's a prime opportunity for Microsoft to position Windows 7 as a well-managed client for MSPs. In fact, MSPs like District Computers LLC say they are booked every weekend through January 2010 with Windows 7 customer migrations.

The buzz on Windows 7 is generally positive as Microsoft markets the new operating system to consumers and businesses. Too bad Microsoft isn't more aggressively communicating Windows 7's value to MSPs. The N-able Partner Summit and ConnectWise Partner Summit were two missed opportunities for Microsoft. Hopefully, the software giant starts to get its MSP messaging right at the MSPWorld event.

MSPs aren't looking for a product pitch. Microsoft better come armed with information about the business value of Windows 7. And if the software giant really wants to engage MSPs, Microsoft should also send BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) and Windows Azure representatives to managed services conferences.

Many MSPs are highly skeptical of BPOS. Time for Microsoft to answer their questions at managed services forums across the globe.

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