At IT Nation this week in Orlando, Fla., Microsoft partners are hearing about Apple's new Mobility Technical Competency (MTC) directly from Francois Daumard, the ex-Microsoft channel executive who is driving the program. Some partners are even getting on-site training for iOS integration in corporate networks.
This may sound like bad news for Microsoft, but several partners told CRN that interpreting this as a blow to the software giant's mobile business would be inaccurate.
With Windows Phone still at an early stage, and Windows 8 not expected to arrive until later next year, Microsoft partners are doing iOS and Android development to meet the current needs of their customers.
"iOS is here right now and that’s the device platform for which some partners are building software," said Andrew Brust, CEO of Microsoft analyst firm Blue Badge Insights, based in New York City. "That’s inconvenient, and even unfortunate in some ways, but it’s not surprising and it’s not disloyal."
Added Brust: "You can bet that these same partners would be happier developing for Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablets, and are doing what they can to see those devices attain ubiquity amongst their customers as well."
Nonetheless, several Microsoft partners CRN spoke with were unabashedly excited about the potential new business that an Apple relationship could bring.
Ric Opal, vice president of Peters & Associates, an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based solution provider, knows one Chicago-based health-care firm that recently bought 20,000 iPads in a single order. Someone has to handle the integration of these devices into corporate networks, and Opal reckons that it might as well be him.
"From my perspective as a Microsoft partner, I now have 20,000 potentially unsecured endpoints going onto a network. That is, operationally, a significant market opportunity," Opal told CRN.
What’s more, Opal says the iOS integration work he's doing will help him identify market opportunities for Windows 8 when it does arrive. "We can't buy Windows 8 now, but we can plan and start strategizing for it," he said.
Microsoft declined to comment on Apple's MTC program. But it's not as if the software giant is sitting back and watching Apple eat its lunch.
System Center 2012, unveiled in March and expected to launch later this year, will include support for managing iPads and iPhones. It’s the same approach Microsoft uses with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, which supports management of VMware virtual machines.
Next: Microsoft's Strategy For iOS