Microsoft Launches New SMB Partner Program, Pushes Cloud Computing

Eric Martorano, senior director of the U.S. SMB channel group at Microsoft, launched the new Top VAR Program from XChange Americas, where he delivered a keynote address. The program provides a designated Telepartner account manager as well as increased incentives, MDFs and technical support to qualified partners committed to building Microsoft SMB practices.

Martorano also exhorted partners to “lead with the cloud” this year as they build their solutions sales strategies.

“There is an opportunity for you to build, tell, sell and support the cloud. There’s opportunity out there, and that’s not going to change,” Martorano said. “Those partners that are leading with cloud get more on-premise revenue. Why? Because they are the trusted advisors,” Martorano said. “I say to every partner, lead with the cloud.”

Eric Wilson, vice president at The Harding Group, a Dallas-based Microsoft partner in the audience, said cloud computing gives customers an easier path to the latest technology.

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“If click on Excel and then click on the same icon the next day and get an upgrade under the hood, that’s the beauty of cloud services,” Wilson said.

Martorano also threw punches at one of the company’s fiercest cloud rivals, Google. “I’ve heard people say ‘Google is going to wipe out your Office business.’ I’m still waiting,” Martorano said.

Greg Lissy, director of channel strategy for U.S. SMB at Microsoft, then joined Martorano on stage and charted out what he called “the hidden costs” of using Google Apps for Business once users start to add on services such as help desk, e-mail archiving and conferencing.

“In the last year, with the help of you -- our partners -- and our field, we’ve won back customers from Google, customers that have made that mistake,” Lissy said.

Microsoft first started discussing what it calls the “hidden Google tax” in May. At the time, Google disputed Microsoft’s claim that Google Apps was a more expensive cloud play.

"There's a reality distortion field over Redmond. Customers know Google's much less expensive than Microsoft," Andrew Kovacs, a Google spokesperson, told CRN in May.