CRN Exclusive: Microsoft Refocuses LINC Program To Push IoT Matchmaking For Partners

Microsoft wants to play matchmaker to help its original design manufacturer (ODM), original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and solution provider partners to create IoT solutions.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is extending its LINC program – originally intended to pair up partners around tablets and notebooks – to refocus on the Internet of Things.

"Each of our partners has a unique perspective on the industry," said Cindy Wu, the global ODM lead at Microsoft. "We want our LINC program to further partnerships and help partners bring products to the market quicker. IoT is a huge focus for partners, and we want to make it easier for partners to enter into the market."

[Related: Partners Cheer Microsoft's IoT Partnership With Johnson Controls To Build Connected Thermostat]

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Microsoft first launched its LINC program in 2009 to drive innovations in the channel around tablets and 2-in-1s. However, the company now wants to extend that focus to new emerging technology – including IoT.

Wu said that Microsoft's channel ecosystem has about 140 ODM partners shipping devices, and more than half of them have some sort of IoT offering. However, many more partners are overwhelmed by the task of piecing together a whole IoT solution or device – and they can use LINC to become connected to other OEMs, ODMs or solution providers who can help them flesh out end-to-end IoT solutions.

"Everyone talks about IoT, but we want to make it easier for the partner to become connected to other players," said Wu. "I want this program to be for any Microsoft partner who want to get a feel of what IoT could be like… we want to make sure we can cultivate relationships."

Microsoft partner Hampoo was a part of the LINC program for years to expand and scale the company's motherboard business in the mobile ecosystem. Now, the company is looking to build up its business around IoT with an array of component-based products, including its High TG Circuit Board for smart homes, its remote monitoring sensors, and its eight-layer, through-hole circuit board for rapidly testing products in traffic analysis.

Using LINC, the company is looking to more easily go to market with its IoT device by linking up with dashcam manufacturers to amp up its business in the transportation vertical, as well as ISVs who can help build mobile apps into the overall IoT solution.

When looking at pairing ODM, OEM and solution provider partners, Microsoft said it looks at vertically and geographically focused relationships, as well as offerings that match what particular buyers are looking for.

"Focusing LINC around the PC market was easier because it's more mature, and the form factors are more defined," said Wu. "When we match IoT solutions, we need to spend the time to figure out what buyers were looking for, like gathering data from the device."

Moving forward, Wu said that Microsoft will continue to enhance its LINC program, particularly by recruiting new partners to the program.

"I want this program to be for any of Microsoft's partners who want to get a feel of what IoT could be like… we want to make sure we can expand this program to get as many partners as possible," she said.