Microsoft COO Kevin Turner: The Man Who Would Not Be King

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Turner has the biggest scope of duties at Microsoft of any executive besides Ballmer. He oversees roughly half of the Redmond, Wash., company, including worldwide sales, services, support and channel partners, operations and software licensing. He also oversees Microsoft's retail stores. Turner has been Microsoft's highest-paid executive for the past three years, and in 2012 earned a total compensation packaged valued at $10.7 million.

Turner oversees Microsoft's vast partner channel, and every year, he takes the stage at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference to get partners fired up about the company's latest products. Turner has been the highest-rated WPC speaker by partner attendees, besting even Ballmer, for the past five years, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft spokespeople claim Turner spends much of his time meeting with partners around the world, listening to their concerns and helping to solve business issues. Yet many partners believe Turner is not as "all in" with the channel as he could be. Some see him as the mastermind behind Microsoft's initial retail-only sales strategy for Surface tablets and the limited rollout through large account resellers only.

"It's critical that Microsoft hire a CEO that is channel-friendly and not someone like Kevin Turner, who is not a fan of the channel," said David Powell, vice president of TekLinks, a Birmingham, Ala.-based Microsoft partner. "The question is which side wins: the partner-centric model or the hard-nosed vendor approach of Kevin Turner who grew up at Walmart?"

"Kevin Turner speaks his mind and gives you an exact perspective of what's going on. That said, I've never thought of him as a channel guy. He gets partners, but is a little less interested in the channel than other Microsoft execs," Dave Sobel, director of partner community at Level Platforms, Ottawa, Ontario, told CRN.

The knock on Turner when he joined Microsoft was that he didn't have experience with enterprise customers, but he was a big customer of Microsoft's, not to mention a hard-nosed negotiator. He once refused to pay an $8 million invoice from Microsoft until Ballmer would give him better terms, according to a report from Bloomberg.

In 2008, when Procter & Gamble Co. -- a big Microsoft Office customer -- was mulling a switch to Google Docs, Turner hopped on a flight to the company's Cincinnati headquarters and talked CIO Filippo Passerini into staying with Microsoft, even getting him to extend his existing Office contract, according to Bloomberg.

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