Larry Velez, CTO and founder of Sinu, a New York-based Microsoft Gold partner that specializes in cloud services, said Nadella will have to convince a skeptical channel that it won't be more of the same.
"Nadella will have to prove that two decades in the company isn't a liability and he is going to be able to see things with fresh eyes and do things differently. I'm encouraged that Nadella puts the focus back where it should be -- on the technical side of the business. But his business acumen is an unknown," Velez said.
Despite Nadella's long tenure at Microsoft, he is a breath of fresh air when compared with Ballmer, said Velez. "Right now Microsoft's biggest challenge in the channel -- or outside of it -- is Azure and the cloud. Partners are moving from managing physical hardware to bits and bytes in the cloud. How is Microsoft going to compete going forward? Before today, Microsoft's game plan for the cloud was murky, but with Nadella we know cloud will be front and center and get the focus it needs."
Microsoft's biggest channel challenges can be counted on one hand -- Azure, Surface, Windows, Office365 and Windows Phone 7, said Velez. "That just about covers everything at Microsoft. Those are big challenges but also Nadella's opportunities."
In addition, Nadella faces significant roadblocks with solution providers because it has positioned its Office365 strategy as more of a self-service offering vs. something that includes the channel, said Marcus Buckley, director of business development at Network Data Systems, a Springfield, Va., partner that specializes in Microsoft Lync.
Buckley said he will be listening closely to Nadella's message to the channel on whether Microsoft will incorporate incentives to reward providers that carry out a services model around the software.
"We focus a lot on the services side and have had some success implementing Office365, but adoption on the large end with Lync is where we see momentum," Buckley said. "I anticipate more of a channel philosophy answer from the CEO and then we'll have to wait to see if there is more than just words behind the message."
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