Microsoft Offers Partner Incentives For Office 2003

Microsoft is offering Partner Service Subsidies of up to $30,000 to solution providers that sell Office 2003, Margo Day, vice president of the Redmond, Wash., software giant’s U.S. partner group, said Sunday at the XChange Solution Provider conference in Atlanta.

"This is money your customer can save to spend with you on other services," Day said. The promotion ends March 31, and partners must redeem the subsidies by May 31, she said.

Customers who buy Office 2003 through the partner promotion get enrolled in Microsoft's Software Assurance upgrade and maintenance program. The payoff is that when Office 2007 arrives, these customers will get it at a lower price than customers who wait until Office 2007 is released, she said.

Tracy Butler, president of Acropolis Technology Group, a St. Louis-based Microsoft partner, said the incentives to fund services or hardware purchases will help move some of his clients to newer Microsoft technology. "That is pretty slick," he said. "No one else is doing that." Butler added that he’s more interested in applying the funds for his services rather than for hardware purchases. "That's the more profitable part of the business," he said.

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Butler predicted that Acropolis Technology Group’s Microsoft business will be up about 20 percent this year. He also commended Day for cutting through critical partner problems. "She walks the walk," he said.

John Breakey, chairman of national technology provider 1nservice and CEO of Unix Lumin, an Oakville, Ontario-based solution provider, said he plans to use the Microsoft incentives to try to move some clients off Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000.

"This is a great program to try to get those customers off the old technology," he said. "This program is focused on businesses that have been difficult to upgrade. Those customers are missing the boat. With Microsoft subsidizing servers and software, it could take the edge off and give those customers the incentive to make the move."

The biggest issue for clients on the older platforms are security threats and the spam onslaught, Breakey noted. "A lot of customers don't realize how important it is to get off the older platforms," he said. Breakey estimated that at least 20 percent of his customers are still on the older platforms.

Under the incentive program, up to $30,000 can be used for partner services, and SMB customers taking advantage of Microsoft open software licensing can use the funds to buy hardware, Day said.

Still, some customers might resist the idea of deploying Office 2003 only a year or so before Office 2007 arrives, said Steve Solbrack, president and general manager of Solbrekk IT Network Solutions, Golden Valley, Minn.

The first question those customers will ask is, 'Why don't I just wait for Office 2007?' Solbrack said. But customers taking part in the promotion can get a discount on Office 2007 when it comes out, with Office 2003 acting as a stepping stone to better prepare them for using the new software, he said.

Office 2007 has many new networking features that connect workers in more productive ways, Day said. However, a demo of Office 2007 that was slated to be delivered during Day's presentation didn’t pan out because the laptop being used went into sleep mode and didn’t wake up in time.

STEVEN BURKE contributed to this story.