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Some Takeaways From The WWPC

Microsoft's Information Worker group has put the full court press on for more partners, partners, partners.

At the aptly-named Worldwide Partner Conference, the company continued its Office-as-platform push, touting the Office systems as key to enterprise content management, enterprise project management, collaboration, and messaging.

Chris Capossela, said he'd like to boost the number of IW-certified partners about 4X from the current 1,700 to about 5,000 to 6,000 or so. "Chris Cap" is group vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker Product Group.

IW partners can focus on messaging/collaboration; portals, enterprise content management, project management, smart client and—on Saturday the company will announce a new "Office Professional" specialty. To qualify, partners need to write high-value vertical solutions using Office and InfoPath to tap into multiple backend systems.

Partners winning that competency by November 1 will get beta 1 of Office 12, due this fall, he said.

Microsoft maintains that there is a $140 billion services opportunity within those IW specialties. It takes a partner about four months to get to his or her first deployment deal, a good implementation will offer "five X" ROI over the first two years, he said.

The opportunity around linking Office to a single line-of-business application can bring 20 percent margins, and an average of $50,000 in services dough. But a more complex e-forms-type deal where InfoPath hooks Office into multiple backend systems, the opportunity usually equates to 25 percent margin and $450,000 services opportunity per deal.

In a breakout session after his keynote, Capossela said the company has seen 3,110 "partner-led" deals close for the fiscal year to date. Could this must be a misspeak? Didn't FY 06 start last week? Hmmm.

SNEAKY SNEAK PEAK OF OFFICE 12

Oddly enough for a company trying to drum up excitement around the upcoming Office 12, the e-forms demo shown was uninspiring. "Doesn't Microsoft know that people have been filling out forms on the Web for years now?" asked one analyst in the crowd.

In short, Microsoft showed off a capability that would let Web surfers do InfoPath-like data I/O without actually having to run InfoPath. This would be the infamous InfoPath Forms server capability that some have been hearing about for months, but which Microsoft has remained mum on. Okay, so it's not infamous. I just like saying infamous InfoPath.

In Friday's "very first public showing" of Office 12 there was nary a mention of the innovative new "ribbon" interface of Office 12. Stay tuned for PDC I guess. We're also supposed to hear a lot more about WinFS (remember WinFS????) at that show in September.

Capossela addressed the mystery surrounding the future of Content Management Server and SharePoint Portal Server. Nearly everyone knows that those two servers are converging but that has mostly been by some kind of osmosis, word-of-mouth. Microsoft has been mum on the subject at least in public. But still, many partners are so sure of the convergence it seems a done deal.

Or is it? Capossela left open the possibility of continued separate SKUs.

"SPS and CMS are part of the Office System; both businesses are growing really well. We do think of SharePoint and CMS very much together. CMS is for running Internet sites, SharePoint for intranet sites and team collaboration," he told a few hundred attendees.

"In the Office 12 timeframe, we are looking to unify the underlying architecture that those two products use so you won't have the chasm you have today."

But, pricing and packaging are not set. Whether these servers will be one, two, or four products, is TBD, he said.

HOOTIE WHO?

Friday night, Microsoft's US Sub hosted a lovely soiree on the banks of the Mississippi. Guests were greeted with a gantlet of high-fiving, shouting Microsofties lead (no doubt) by Margo Day. Once the initial panic subsided—partners agreed that Microsoft sure knows how to make you feel appreciated.

Nicollet Island was breezy and pleasant, the open bar widely appreciated, and the warm up music (especially the Zydeco band) was great. Hootie and the Blowfish headlined. Remember them? They're about to launch a new CD.

While some attendees were glassy-eyed from nine hours in the refrigerated convention center, a couple partners had spent the last two days on the golf course. Asked how the conference was treating them there was a blank stare: "Conference? What conference?"

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