Microsoft's X Factor: Did VP's Blog Help Or Hurt Microsoft's Channel?

Did Microsoft Vice President of Corporate Communications Frank X. Shaw's recent comments in The Official Microsoft Blog highlighting some of what he calls his "favorite numbers" do more harm than good to the company and its channel sales-force?

It's a question worth asking after Shaw let loose in what reads like an extraordinarily sensitive defense of Microsoft's shortcomings and how the company is being depicted in the media.

Shaw says his missive was prompted by the company's sale of "150 million Windows 7 licenses in 8 months."

But there clearly is more going on here: Namely, Microsoft's preoccupation with its own shortcomings when it comes to competing with Apple, Google, and even Sony's PlayStation.

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On the Apple front, Shaw details big numbers around projected netbook sales (58 million) and PC sales (355 million) in 2010 compared to iPad sales (7.1 million). He then compares global iPhone sales in the first quarter (8.8 million) to Nokia smartphone sales in the same period (21.5 million). Interestingly, he doesn’t mention how Microsoft’s own mobile device sales figures stack up, nor does he include Google’s Android OS.

On the Google front, Shaw details the number of new Microsoft Bing search users in one year (21.4 million). He then compares the worldwide figure for Google Gmail users (173 million) to that of Windows Live Hotmail (360 million) and Microsoft Active Windows Live Messenger Accounts (299 million).

Shaw also notes that it took nine years to reach one million paid subscribers, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM reached that milestone in just six years. He also suggests there’s a ’100 percent’ chance that CEO Marc Benioff will mention Microsoft in a speech, panel, interview or blog post at some point in time.

In an e-mail blast to his team, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson, who is also battling Microsoft in Software as a Service (SaaS) market, says the blog post confirms that "ERP applications are not strategic for Microsoft, and they will never make the herculean effort required to bring pre-web products like Great Plains and Navision (now renamed Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV) to the Internet age."

"Microsoft is focusing their efforts and resources on competing with Google in search and personal productivity applications, Sony with gaming consoles, Mozilla in browsers, Apple in operating systems and smart phones, and Oracle in databases," says Nelson. "So it was nice to see a key executive from Microsoft confirm this belief."

What Shaw has done, more forcefully than he could ever have imagined, is focus attention on just what is top of mind -- and more importantly, what is not top of mind -- for Microsoft these days.

In my view, the biggest glaring omission in Shaw’s missive is the short shrift given to Microsoft's channel. Shaw forgot to mention what is Microsoft's biggest ace in the hole as it takes on Apple, Google, its broad and deep army of channel partners. This from a company that by all counts receives nearly 100 percent of its $58.4 billion in annual revenue from channel partners.

The oversight is even more pronounced given that Microsoft is gearing up for its annual Worldwide Partner Conference next month, an event that’s going to include long awaited details on Microsoft’s cloud offensive.

Next: Microsoft's Forgotten Channel Numbers

In my view, it’s an omission that HP, the biggest computer company in the world, never would have made. HP CEO Mark Hurd is all about selling more products by leveraging partners. That apparently is not in Shaw's numbers book.

Shaw, in short, has slighted hundreds of thousands of Microsoft partners. Here's some Microsoft numbers Shaw should think printing in his next by the numbers courtesy of Everything Channel's 2010 Partner Program Guide:

Number of Microsoft Partners -- North America:


Number of Microsoft Partners Worldwide:


Number of Microsoft Channel field Sales Reps North America:


Number of New Microsoft Partners Added Last 12 Months:


Percent Increase In Microsoft Partner Base:


It's worth mentioning that Apple and Google do not even show up on the 2010 Everything Channel Partner Program Guide.

Microsoft has become a company more interested in myth-making and politics than selling products. It's a cultural characteristic that is hurting the company and its channel partners. That is something Microsoft should think long and hard about it when its top executive team addresses partners at its Worldwide Partner Conference starting July 11 in Washington, DC. Given Shaw's blog comments my bet is he will feel right at home in the political spin-zone that is the Beltway.