Windows 7 and Managed Services: Microsoft's Emerging Strategy

If the early reports are correct, Windows 7 is a dramatic improvement from Windows Vista (perhaps for these five reasons). Even so, I'm surprised Microsoft is doing so little to promote Windows 7 to managed service providers. Here's what Microsoft is doing wrong -- and right -- with its MSP messaging so far.

First, let's point out a couple of errors. Microsoft was missing in action during last week's N-able Partner Summit in Arizona. The event attracted 350 managed service providers, many of which are enjoying strong momentum in 2009. (Here's a quick look at some of N-able's top MSP partners.)

Fast forward to the ConnectWise Partner Summit (Nov. 4-6, Orlando), and Microsoft isn't yet listed as a major player at the event. Another big error, since more than 900 MSPs are expected to attend the largest managed services event of the year.

Still, Microsoft is taking some noteworthy steps in the MSP space. The company will be presenting at this week's Spiceworks SpiceWorld conference in Austin, Texas, which is expected to attract roughly 200 IT managers and service providers. And Microsoft will talk up Windows 7 during the MSPAlliance's MSPWorld conference (Nov. 12-13, Las Vegas).

The Bigger Picture

Despite those moves, Microsoft has to up its managed services game. It seems like MSP software providers constantly tout their work with Microsoft, but the software giant doesn't really return the favor very often. It's as if the managed services market is growing up around Microsoft, but not necessarily because of Microsoft's participation.

Further complicating matters, rumors continue that Microsoft is trying to figure out whether to launch a managed services tool of its own.

Now here's the irony: The MSP industry seems to have a lot of respect for Windows 7. During a dinner conversation last week, N-able's Rob Bissett told me he's been running Windows 7 without a hiccup for several months. And he's blown away by the performance.

Now, it's time for Microsoft to show the MSP industry the same type of love. Attending MSPWorld and SpiceWorld are noteworthy steps. But it's time for Microsoft to launch a formal managed services strategy -- describing exactly where the company will and won't compete.

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