Microsoft COO: Cloud Computing, Windows 7 Upgrades Offer Partner Opportunities


Cloud computing and Windows 7 upgrades are business opportunities Microsoft channel partners should be aggressively pursuing, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner said in a keynote speech Wednesday.

Turner, known for his “take-no-prisoners” pep talks at the annual Worldwide Partner Conference, didn’t disappoint this year, using his speech as an opportunity to take shots at Microsoft’s biggest competitors, including Apple, Oracle and Google.

“At Microsoft, big aspirations have always fueled our company,” Turner said, speaking in the cavernous Verizon Center in Washington D.C. And he made it clear that the vendor expects its partners to think equally big.

Turner said Microsoft tracks its competitive position in 15 key technologies and he said the company leads in all but two of them: mobile computing and browsers. And he said Internet Explorer has gained market share in recent months -- a trend he said should continue when IE 9, which is scheduled for public beta next month, becomes generally available.

Echoing other Microsoft executives throughout the week, Turner said cloud computing offers “an unbelievable opportunity for new revenue streams” for partners. Citing such products as Business Productivity Online Suite, Office Web Apps, Windows Azure and Dynamics CRM Online, the COO called Microsoft “the undisputed leader in commercial cloud services.”

“We are in this game in a huge way,” he said, “and I really encourage you to bet big with us on the cloud.”

Cloud computing opportunities for resellers include selling cloud services to build recurring revenue streams, he said, and packaging value-added services with online services. ISVs can develop applications on Windows Azure and SQL Azure and help customers migrate to them from legacy systems.

Turner also described the Windows 7 upgrade opportunities for partners, noting that 85 percent of Windows users are still running old XP and Vista releases. Fifty-two percent of Internet Explorer users are on IE6 and IE7, he said, and 63 percent are using Office 2003 or older.

As he does each year, Turner exhorted partners to sell hard against Microsoft’s competitors and he devoted a chunk of his speech to reviewing the company’s competitive stance against leading rivals -- and getting in some digs along the way.

Google is competing hard against Microsoft in the productivity application space, but Turner isn’t ceding any ground. “We don’t want some of the customers on productivity [applications], we want all the customers,” he said. The COO said Bing is making gains on Google in the search engine arena. Noting some of the privacy-related controversies Google has become entangled in, Turner said: “We don’t need a mission statement not to do evil to remind us not to do evil.”

The executive admitted that Microsoft hasn’t fared well in the mobile device space against Apple and other competitors. But he said Windows Phone 7 would change that and “the game is just beginning” in that market. Referring to widely reported problems the new Apple iPhone 4, Turner said that product just might become “Apple’s Vista.” (“You’ll be able to use Windows Phone 7 without having to hold it a certain way,” he said to laughter.)

Turner called VMware another “high-priced competitor” and said that company has many customer contracts coming up for renewal, giving partners who work with Microsoft’s Hyper-V an opportunity. And Turner said Windows has been gaining market share against Linux, despite battling what he called “the perception of free.”

The Microsoft executive saved some of his biggest digs for Oracle and its CEO, Larry Ellison, showing an unflattering picture of Ellison on the huge screen above the stage and mocking some of Ellison’s comments about cloud computing. Turner noted that Oracle has raised prices and maintenance fees in the last year or two and Microsoft partners have opportunities to displace Oracle products when Oracle migrates its product line to its new Fusion applications.