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COO Turner Gives Microsoft a 3 out of 5

Amid splashy videos, jet packs and chase capers at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, COO Kevin Turner grades the company's channel performance.

Some 12,000 partners are in Denver to hear what's new from Microsoft, and so are ChannelWeb reporters. Our ace software team of Stacy Cowley, Rick Whiting and Kevin McLaughlin are all in Denver tuning in to the keynotes and walking the floors. Look for posts from all three of them right here in TalkTalk.

From Stacy Cowley:

Microsoft likes to spend big on splashy spoof videos for its conferences (last month's TechEd featured a Back to the Future parody followed up with a live cameo from Christopher Lloyd), and this week's Worldwide Partner Conference was no exception. Allison Watson rode up on horseback in Day One's video to kick off the conference, and donned a jetpack for the chase caper that capped off Day Three's keynote, which culminated in her arriving onstage amid flash-pot flames.

Watson also signed up her son Jackson to host a guided video tour of her new digital-to-the-rafters house, anchored by an extensive Windows Vista Media Center PC deployment. Watson clearly takes partnering personally -- the video featured an appearance by "home VAR Mike," who led Watson's Windows Everywhere initiative.

Not all the keynotes were so lighthearted. COO Kevin Turner revisited his comments from last year's WPC presentation and graded Microsoft's execution against the five commitments he made at the time to partners. On three of them, Microsoft has excelled in the past 12 months, in Turner's view: Strengthening its partner outreach financially and programmatically, creating profitability models and new sales opportunities, and delivering "market leading innovations."

But on the last two initiatives, Turner gave his company barely passing marks. Microsoft has made progress on providing product road maps, and for the first time has one drafted and available to partners covering every business group at Microsoft -- but it hasn't gone far enough in clarifying and communicating its product plans, Turner said.

"It's complicated, and there's a lot of reasons why it's complicated," Turner said. " I'd give us a C on this particular commitment."

Also earning a "C" grade was Microsoft's effort to be "one Microsoft" and provide partners with clear communication channels.

"I learned that the PAM role wasn't consistently implemented in all the places, and that you all had to talk to multiple people at Microsoft to figure out who is on first, and who is on second. We made some changes," Turner said. "We're going to work on that, and you've got my commitment that that will remain on the list until we improve."

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