Microsoft invited some of us here at ChannelWeb up to Redmond the last week of June for some "pre-WPC" chats. That's WPC for Worldwide Partner Conference, by the way, or should I say btw. One thing I learned in Redmond: They like acronyms. A lot.
There was a lot of talk about upcoming changes to the channel program, enhancements to the partner portal, and some very interesting tweaks to Software Assurance. All meaty stuff to be sure.
But all I could think about was the iPhone. It was the week of the launch. And there I was with Kevin Turner, COO of Microsoft. I'm guessing you know that Microsoft just happens to have a mobile platform of its own, and that platform isn't generating the hysteria-laden hype of the iPhone.
So, I had to ask. I know. Vista is here. Titan, the newest version of CRM, is coming. New versions of almost everything are on the way. But I had to believe that somewhere, someone in Redmond was looking at this iPhone thing and thinking..."I want."
So I asked. With all this talk of how the iPhone is going to change the mobile industry, where is Microsoft? Microsoft Mobile is not a leader, and now people expect Apple to dominate. What is Microsoft going to do about the iPhone?
"I think that that's fair. I think that certainly there's a lot of, as you said, hype and anticipation in the marketplace with iPhone," Turner said. "I think the response that we got with the Q, the response that we got with the Blackjack, there's a market for us. There is a home for us in that space," Turner added, referring to the recent Motorola and Samsung smart phones that run Microsoft Mobile. "I think as we continue to move and centralize our systems to where it's more transparent between Exchange and Hotmail, and Windows Live, and all the different things that we're working on there, we're working to connect the ecosystem behind that."
Still, I keep thinking that with RIM and its BlackBerry not exactly channel-centric, and now Apple and the iPhone jumping in, the mobile space just became a lot less channel-friendly. Microsoft Mobile seems like the channel's biggest chance in the mobile space.
Turner agreed, and assured me that Microsoft remains focused on Mobile.
"The big opportunity we have in the mobile space, yes, we have some commercial opportunity inside enterprises. ... We're cheaper, our stuff works better, and most people run Exchange anyway, and it's a natural extension."
Still, it leaves me wondering. If the iPhone takes off and millions of consumers are using them, will Microsoft Mobile be relegated to Zune status?