20 Things Partners Want Steve Ballmer To Talk About At Microsoft WPC

Yo Steve, Listen Up!

With Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference coming up, the company created a Web site to solicit topics for CEO Steve Ballmer to address in his keynote speech. About 70 people had questions and suggestions.

Innovation (or the lack thereof) at Microsoft seemed to be the top issue for a lot of people. Some partners want to hear Ballmer better explain just how the channel fits into the cloud, while others want more details on Windows 8 and Microsoft's future plans for Windows Phone. And a surprising number are eliciting Ballmer's help in bringing professional basketball back to Seattle.

Here's what we considered the most interesting of the posted comments, ripped right from the Web site (with the occasional spelling and punctuation correction).

Trust, But Verify

"Talk about trust. The cloud is based on trust: I give you some important things to hold onto and trust that they won't be deleted or shared. Do I trust Google? Negative. Facebook? They rank just above North Korea. Why should I trust you? Give me a reason, or admit there are none, and then tell me why I should keep things local and how you'll help me keep them secure. The best way for two people to keep a secret is for one of them to be dead. I'd rather not have to resort to such measures... Maybe you can help." – D.B. Cooper

Cloudy Outlook

"Please Steve, clarify how Microsoft's and other vendors' continual pounding of partners to move into the cloud is good for the IT world as a whole. The cloud may be good, in some cases even brilliant, but partners are being smothered in cloud and some are turning against the idea purely by the constant barrage of cloud marketing. WPC, Worldwide Partners in the Cloud (forget everyone else). I'm proud to partner with Microsoft, tell me how my future lies in the OEM world." – Andy Trish

"How [is] Microsoft going to enable their Partners to sell the Microsoft cloud packages in a resale model rather than an introducer model. This will enable them to bundle them with other cloud offerings (whether Microsoft or third party) so they can offer a true end-to-end solution to their clients. – Ian Watkins


Feeling Blue About Azure

"Microsoft has historically grown via its ISV partners supporting its operating systems and creating add-ons and integrations for its products. The new Microsoft business model of cloud delivery of products and services seems to send the message: 'ISV partners need not apply; we will take the customers from this point forward.'

Given that Azure is not a viable business model for most current Microsoft ISVs and there is no effective add-on/extension market for the other products, what are the go forward plans for ISVs and Microsoft?" – Philip Lieberman

Market Globally, Hire Locally

"With the recent Microsoft layoffs and a high number of unemployed American IT workers, why is Microsoft continuing to bring in new employees for US positions on H1B Visas without interviewing qualified American candidates?" – Auggie

A Little Help?

"I would like to know when Microsoft will focus on providing a partner experience that will help our business rather than limit or restrict it. [Microsoft's] dedication to LARs and restrictions on value added providers greatly hinder our operations and profitability. We are a Tier-3 cloud champion partner and had a customer that was told by Microsoft that they would get better support if they worked with CDW and added them as partner of record instead of us. It really makes us feel like Microsoft does not care about the partner experience or respect our client relationships.

"As a trusted provider to our customers we now must tread carefully and examine how our 'partner experience' is now negatively affecting our bottom line and customer relationships." – Jeramie

Getting Right To The Point

"I'm concerned about you screwing up Skype." – Perry Keithley

To Be Blunt

"When will you be stepping down? We need a new CEO." – Jim

Stiff Competition

"Please explain why Apple is now bigger than Microsoft and Intel combined. How do you plan to compete with Cupertino [Apple's headquarters] in the future." – Jeff

A Plea For Innovation

"Steve, Microsoft is a great company that does great things. It produces products that are un-matched for profitability, usability and sustainability in the marketplace. Microsoft has been, or perceived, as a laggard in the area of innovation. Specifically a laggard in the area of consumer innovation or, better said, ’cool’ innovation. Products like Kinect are absolute leaders, we need more of these. When you look to the future do you see this as being a focus or do you see the economic and product model that is in play today at Microsoft continuing.

"Apple, Google, HP and others appear to be leaders in bringing innovative products to market and succeeding. For example, the tablet PC was in [the] market by Microsoft years ahead of the current generation of tablet devices, yet they are blowing the Microsoft tablet out of the water. Is this a result of marketing, too early to market, ’cool’, or simply innovation. There are great people and ample resources to be innovative, please go win back the ’wow factor’ and be a market leader." – Bill

Bring Basketball Back To Seattle

"Are you willing and ready to purchase an NBA franchise (after the development of the new collective bargaining agreement) and bring our Sonics back to Seattle where they belong?!! You should leave these Microsoft haters and become a cult hero for Seattle-area basketball fans!" – Mike

"I'm interested in Microsoft and your personal philanthropic activities pertaining to the Greater Seattle area. Can you please transform Key Arena into the Windows Media Center where Microsoft products can be showcased, as well as being [a] home for champion NBA and NHL teams?" – Jeff

"I want to first thank you for all your efforts in keeping the Seattle Supersonics in Seattle where they belong. They have been gone for over three years, and nothing is being done. Is there any way you could bring up this vital issue? Microsoft could be a community sponsor like it is for the Seattle Storm Basketball team. Thanks so much!" – Bill

More Pleas For Innovation

"Who in the company is in charge of product design? We have seen changes in design, but still the products seem to lack an edge. What steps are you taking to have system folks and product design folks get together to create the future? I fear that MS may be in neutral similar to the Detroit car CEOs and designers that produced the Pinto, the Pacer, and other horrible products. Do you see MS stuck in neutral?" – Milton Huertas

"How do you respond to the claim that I have heard personally from MSFT employees, read in industry publications and the mainstream press, and analysts that MSFT's corporate culture stifles the innovation of its employees?" – Scott

"Why does Microsoft lag behind Apple in innovation?" – BackwardPC

Concerns About Microsoft's Mobile Strategy

"From the outside, the Windows Mobile Phone 7 business strategy does not appear to be viable given the lack of market differentiation, strong existing competition, and clearly inadequate investment by Microsoft in the platform.

"Further, throwing the existing marketshare and ISV investment into Windows Mobile 6.X/CE under the bus without any transition strategy is also hard to understand (Windows versions were always backward[ly] compatible to some degree). On top of all of this, it appears Windows 8 is going to go down the questionable path of the Windows Mobile Phone 7 user interface.

"Other than the highly speculative IDC reports that support the Microsoft strategy, why should partners embrace this new paradigm? What is the new killer idea that we are all 'not getting' about Windows [Phone] 7 and Windows 8?" – Philip Lieberman

What Does The Skype Acquisition Say About Microsoft's Own Abilities?

"Could you address concerns about your internal talent? In years past, Microsoft was an unstoppable force in software design and implementation throughout various markets. With your recent purchase of Skype, you've inpired a fear in me, and I'm sure many other investors, that you've lost your ability to create software solutions in new areas. If Microsoft is truly such a powerhouse in software design and integration, why was it necessary to spend so much money on this acquisition? Surely an internally developed solution would have been orders of magnitude less expensive and would have been designed from the ground up to fit into Microsoft's vision. The Skype purchase seems like it will be more of a bolt-on solution than an elegantly integrated one. Surely, it can't be about "customer" acquisition, considering most use Skype because it's free.

"How can you calm our concerns that Microsoft can still make software?" – RamJaw

Seeking Hard Facts About Hardware

"I would like to know about plans to build your own hardware. The Xbox 360 and later on the Kinect [were] big success[es]. Apple had very big success creating their phone and tablet. Can Microsoft do more to create hardware that is not trying to catch up, but that is truly revolutionary? I want to see phones and tablets that use technology like the Kinect that no one has ever seen. As an educator I would also like to see these devices make their way into schools at the same time and to be simultaneously promoted with software for both education and entertainment." – Peterson

Channel Collaboration

"We want to win with our fellow Microsoft partners. How do we effectively connect with one another on viable opportunties through social media and what is Microsoft's plan/direction to help foster this collaborative community? It should be as easy as a system like Linked-In to find, connect, and work together incorporating a lead management aspect but contained in an elite MS partner only site." – Warren Lyne

A Failure To Communicate?

"Many partners are frustrated with operational changes that have a material impact to our business... from reduction of agency fees for LARs, to the new SIP [Solutions Incentive Program], which has landed half-baked, to unclear value of our investments for numerous competency programs. Please explain how senior management [is] working to communicate and fully vet out programs before they land and better understand the needs of ALL partners. Keep in mind, you are NOT the only game in town." – Stephen Feldman

It's All In The Marketing

"Why is Microsoft so bad at promoting its products? You've been making some great products lately (Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Phone 7, Kinect to name a few) but you suck at promoting them. Why aren't you more aggressive in that department and hire a marketing team that rivals your competitors'?

"Additionally why are you letting great concepts like the [Microsoft tablet] Courier die? Those are the products that you need to start making in order to become a leader again. Microsoft spends more than anybody on R&D, yet it seems like most of it goes to waste." – Rodut A.

Looking Beyond Windows

"See [the] June 11 'The Economist,' page 68, 'Middle-aged Blues.' IBM depends on 360, Microsoft depends on Windows. Is it time to move away from Windows, Windows, Windows?" – Wyatt

Can Microsoft Re-Invent Itself?

"Respectfully, Microsoft has a culture that reflects its past: combative, proud, software-oriented, product-centered, hierarchically structured, and techie-dominated. It would seem the signs point to a future that is more customer-centered, services-oriented, content-centered, more organizationally integrated and cooperative, and experience design-oriented.

"The culture of Microsoft shouldn't define the business, it should enhance the business strategy. In fact, some would say that Microsoft – culturally and from a process standpoint – is it's own greatest competitor. What plans do you have, related to culture, organizational development and brand management, to address the new future? If success in technology requires radical innovation, is Microsoft prepared to be radically innovative about its own reinvention?" – DaveStoke

Maybe Not So Simple

"My question is simple: Why should we care about Microsoft?" – Chris