Microsoft Lifts Attendance Ban On Rival Vendors At Annual Partner Conference

Microsoft, which for the past couple of years has officially barred rival vendors' employees from coming to its annual Worldwide Partner Conference, has had a change of heart.

Employees from Google,, VMware and Amazon weren't permitted to attend this year's WPC, but they'll apparently be welcome at the next WPC, which is set for next year in Orlando, Fla. from July 12-16.

"There is no list [of banned companies] this year," a Microsoft spokesperson told CRN Thursday.

Prior to this year's WPC, Microsoft moved the list of banned vendors from its homepage into the event registration's terms and conditions page. Now it's doing away with the list altogether.

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[Related: Microsoft Unveils Super Bowl-Like Event For Enterprise Tech]

While it's tough to imagine throngs of Google employees showing up at WPC, Microsoft partners consider this an important sign of how CEO Satya Nadella has been able to change certain aspects of the company's culture since taking the helm in February.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was famously averse to rival vendors' technology, especially when it came to his employees using Apple iPhones.

Nadella, in contrast, has steered Microsoft onto a course toward getting its software to work on multiple platforms, along with a broader push toward making Microsoft technologies interoperable with those of other vendors.

Gary Alexander, principal at Overland Park, Kan.- based Microsoft partner Alexander Open Systems, told CRN he sees the ban's lift as a sign that Microsoft isn't afraid of rivals' technical expertise.

"These are all powerhouse companies that have their own unique strengths. These other companies don't have what Microsoft has, so Microsoft is showing they have no fear," Alexander said.

Microsoft and Salesforce, longtime rivals in the CRM market, inked a partnership in May that will tie together their respective software more closely. Yet on Microsoft's Dynamics CRM webpage, there's a cost comparison calculator that claims Microsoft is roughly one-fifth the cost of Salesforce.

Microsoft and VMware have been lobbing verbal grenades back and forth for years in the server virtualization market, but the vendors also work together on a number of fronts and are a great example of the sometimes-symbiotic nature of relationships between rival vendors.

As for Google, which along with Amazon, is locked in a cloud price war with Microsoft, that's a rivalry that probably won't be ending anytime soon.