15 Scenes From Microsoft WPC 2013: Surface, Hybrid Cloud Steal The Show

WPC Draws More Than 15,000

Microsoft estimated more than 15,000 people attended the company's annual Worldwide Partner Conference, held this year in Houston.

They arrived from all corners of the globe, some traveling 30 hours to reach the annual conference for a pat on the back by Microsoft and a peek at what the year ahead will bring.

Here are some of the highlights including the Surface tablet, for which partners stood in line for hours.

We May Not Be Bigger But We Are Better

The message from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Day 1 of WPC 2013 in Houston to partners: Microsoft's cloud is not the biggest out there, but it is the best -- and the only cloud that can do everything businesses need. The software giant has been migrating from terra firma to the ether for several years. Now, as Ballmer made clear at WPC (and at the Build Developer Conference in San Francisco less than two weeks before), it's planning to dominate with a hybrid strategy, combining public and private cloud with support for on-premises solutions.

Surface Controversy

Partners waited in line for as long as two hours to purchase a Microsoft Surface tablet at WPC 2013. Microsoft marked down the Surface RT to $99 and the Surface Pro to $399 for the event. "It's our way of saying thank you," Jon Roskill, Microsoft corporate vice president for the Worldwide Partner Group, told CRN at the conference, adding that 16,000 units had sold between July 8 and 9. But Microsoft had angered some partners over the decision to sell Surface through 10 large account resellers (LARs) and not through solution providers.

The Star Treatment

However, there appeared to be no hard feelings about the Surface, at least by Mike Reinhart, president and COO of solution provider RBA, who posed with Jon Roskill, Microsoft corporate vice president for the Worldwide Partner Group. RBA won the Microsoft Partner of the Year Award for global innovation. About two dozen other Partner of the Year winners waited in line to have a photograph with Roskill while Reinhart was posing with him.

Taking The Surface For A Test Run

Partners at WPC 2013 test the Surface tablet, Microsoft's answer to the Apple iPad and a superior one, according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates. And the WPC discount -- $99 for a Surface RT and $399 for the more powerful Surface Pro -- was a bargain compared to retail prices, even after the recent price slashing.

Stiff Competition For Attention

Some vendors at WPC, like SmtpLogic, an email gateway company from Redmond, Wash., decided on a superhero costume to attract attention on the vast floor of the conference center. Maybe they decided pens and T-shirts weren't enough when competing against hundreds of other vendors.

Cold Cash In The Cloud

Mimecast, an email management solution provider, settled on a different strategy to get attention at WPC 2013: a cash wind tunnel. Here Andrea Fitch of Statera, an IT services provider based near Denver, tried to grab as many dollar bills as she could. She walked away with $10.

An Early Look At Microsoft's Power BI

A Microsoft representative demonstrates Power BI, a new tool that unlocks "insights on any data." The Excel add-on that runs in Office 365 prompted buzz from partners at WPC 2013 for the potential to dig into big data for business intelligence and analysis. Microsoft's Office Division General Manager Kirk Gregersen told CRN that BI "democratizes the data."

Xbox Swag

Some of the swag on sale at the Microsoft WPC 2013 bookstore, including these Xbox controllers. Microsoft counts the Xbox gaming console as a crown jewel in the company's hardware lineup. With the new Xbox One, Microsoft wants to integrate gaming with TV and computing.

Missile Defense

Evan Brossard and Zachary Nawar, students at Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., demonstrate the game "Missile Defense," which they programmed on Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Microsoft: Goodbye Software, Hello Devices And Services

Partners at WPC 2013 test out some of the new Windows devices. The software company proclaimed the intention to remake itself as a devices and services company with tentacles in private and public cloud as well as on-prem. Asked why Microsoft was moving in so many directions, Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of the Server and Tools marketing group, told CRN variety was the only "pragmatic" way to serve the needs of customers around the world.

Who Wants A Windows Phone?

Nisha Prabhakar of Mindtree takes up an offer by Scott Cate of EventDay.com to surrender her Samsung Galaxy S2 in exchange for a Windows Nokia Lumia during WPC 2013. Cate wasn't kidding. He plunged the phone in a cup of coffee as Prabhakar watched, her mouth hanging open.

There Was No Going Back

Here Scott Cate of EventDay.com dunks a Samsung Galaxy S2 in a cup of coffee. The phone belonged to Nisha Prabhakar of Mindtree. She volunteered her phone in exchange for a Windows Nokia Lumia at WPC 2013.

Fitz And The Tantrums Warm Up Partners

Fitz and the Tantrums warmed up the crowd at the WPC 2013 closing party July 10. Microsoft opened up Minute Maid stadium to the thousands of partners who attended and sampled Houston's ballpark provisions, including pork chops on a stick and giant mounds of nachos.

Partners Rocking Out To Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz got partners rocking at the WPC 2013 closing party held at the Minute Maid stadium. A fireworks show, visible from the sky through the retractable roof, topped off Kravitz's closing song.

The Long Road Home

Microsoft partners return to their hotels after the WPC 2013 closing party July 10 at Minute Maid stadium. The party capped the five-day conference, which ended July 11. Some stayed on an extra day or two for some sightseeing. But by the afternoon of July 11, the conference floor had thinned out as many others began the journey back to their far-flung home offices.