Apple's Secret Weapon In Mobility: Microsoft Partners

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Imagine Microsoft partners and Apple partners taking technical training classes together and then chatting and exchanging business cards afterwards. Sounds preposterous, right? Believe it or not, these improbable interactions between the IT industry's Hatfields and McCoys are taking place right now.

Apple is looking to add Windows-trained experts to the Apple Consultants Network (ACN) with its new Mobility Technical Competency, which will be formally unveiled at this week's ConnectWise IT Nation conference. The MTC program aims to identify a go-to roster of partners that can deliver integration services for large scale corporate iPad and iPhone projects.

Apple currently has around a half-dozen certified trainers teaching MTC classes, and two that CRN spoke with said Microsoft and Apple solution providers are showing up in equal numbers to learn the ins and outs of iOS integration work.

Despite the potential for ideological friction between the two camps, MTC trainer Ben Greisler, principal at Kadimac, an Exton, Pa.-based Apple integrator, has been impressed with the positive interactions he's witnessed so far.

"This illustrates the goal of MTC, which is to bring in new blood to the ACN and to mix the iOS platform with the Microsoft experience," Greisler said in an interview. "On the flip side, MTC is about bringing in well established Mac shops and getting them up to speed, too."

Another MTC trainer, Craig Cohen, president of HCS Technology Group, an Apple consultancy in Bohemia, N.Y., is seeing Microsoft and Apple partners discussing business opportunities in areas outside of mobility.

"People that work with Microsoft Sharepoint and Exchange are now working with ACN members supporting Macs," he said. "We're getting people [in the MTC classes] with really deep knowledge of Exchange, which we've always had to outsource because ACN members rarely have that kind of depth."

Apple's original goal was to get 100 new Microsoft specialists into the ACN channel by the end of the year, but Cohen says that based on MTC participation so far, Apple is now aiming for 150. And by the end of 2012, Apple hopes to have 1,000 Microsoft partners in the ACN channel.

What's more, Microsoft partners of all sizes are taking part, from small 4-person shops to larger solution providers that handle international and federal business, Cohen said.

From Microsoft's point of view, seeing partners gravitating to Apple is surely a headache-inducing development. Not only does the MTC program highlight Microsoft's struggles in mobility, it's also being driven by Francois Daumard, a 12-year Microsoft channel veteran who joined Apple in May as manager of iPhone and iPad channel development.

Here's another wrinkle: Microsoft, like many IT vendors, for years has been advocating partner-to-partner networking within its own channel, but it's safe to say the software giant never anticipated that a catalyst for this cross-pollination would come from Apple. Microsoft declined to comment for this article.

Next: What Apple Has To Say About MTC

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