That message was, and is: Microsoft partners will need to evolve their business models to survive in the world of SaaS, which Microsoft calls Software Plus Services.
In July, at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, Elop told partners they'd have to significantly alter the way they'd been doing business for years, even decades, to benefit from Microsoft's move to services. That news didn't go over well with some VARs, but since WPC, Elop has been communicating closely with VARs to explain where the opportunities lie in services.
"Microsoft has been deliberately dependent on the partner channel. It's a competitive asset, and it's how we go to market," Elop said. "So, regardless of whether it's software in the cloud, ultimately run by us, or however it's done, we need our partner organizations involved."
Elop says VARs are now in a phase where they understand what Microsoft is doing with Software Plus Services, and Rick Oppedisano, vice president of marketing at M3 Technology Group, a Charlotte, N.C.-based solution provider, agrees with this assessment.
"The fact that Elop came out with a direct message around the strategy, service and delivery methods gave us the chance to be proactive in our approach," said Oppedisano.
Some Microsoft executives are known for giving meandering speeches, but Elop's communications with partners have been frank and direct. In his WPC keynote, Elop admitted that prior to joining Microsoft, he thought Software Plus Services "sounded a bit like a rationalization, even a bit cheesy."
Elop's prevailing message is that Microsoft's customers are asking for services, and VARs need to evolve their businesses accordingly.
"The most important thing for partners to take out of all of this is that you've got to be moving, too. Things are changing: The way the money is flowing, the development work that you do, the support services, that's all going to change," Elop said.