5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

This week's roundup of companies that had a rough week includes Microsoft's plans to cut the commissions it pays channel partners for channel sales, a potential boycott of an upcoming security technology show and a major software vendor's loss of its North America channel chief. Oh, and movie director Michael Bay's v-e-r-y public meltdown at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Microsoft is preparing to slash the fees it pays partners from its Online Services Advisor incentives program. And partners are not happy about the move.

The fee cuts, which go into effect Jan. 25, are happening in Microsoft's Advisor Enterprise Agreement Deploy program, in which partners steer customers to purchase Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud service subscriptions as part of EA volume licensing contracts. In return, partners get a one-time payment based on the full-year value of each seat when the customer deploys the services.

The fee cuts mean that partners will have less incentive to tout Microsoft's cloud services over competing products, such as Google's online applications. Partners interviewed by CRN questioned the wisdom of cutting back on the commissions at a time when competition in the cloud services arena is intensifying. It's even leading some to consider selling competing services they don't currently offer.

Did anyone have as bad a week as Michael Bay? The director of "Transformers," "Pearl Harbor" and other big, noisy films was brought onstage at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show Monday as part of a Samsung keynote extravaganza to promote the company's new curved, 105-inch, UHD TV.

But Bay ran into problems almost immediately. After a Samsung host asked him where he gets his ideas, Bay began to answer, and then froze, saying there was a problem with the teleprompter. Saying he would wing it, he started to talk, stopped again, then apologized, turned and walked off the stage.

Besides embarrassing himself, Bay's flop proved to be a monumental distraction for the Samsung presentation. A CRN reporter in the audience said attendees spent the rest of the event tweeting and emailing their friends about the incident.

A growing number of security experts say they will boycott the upcoming RSA security conference because of reports that RSA worked with the National Security Agency to include a backdoor in its widely used encryption toolkit.

Late last month, Reuters reported that RSA, the security division of storage giant EMC, was paid $10 million by the NSA under the secret deal. That story was based on information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. RSA has denied the report.

This week, Ars Technica reported that at least eight scheduled conference participants have decided not to attend the conference, including Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, the American Civil Liberties Union and Atredis Partners. The conference will be in San Francisco Feb. 24-28.

Enterprise software vendor Red Hat is searching for a new channel chief for its North America operations after Roger Egan, vice president of North America channel sales, left the company. Egan's departure comes just before Red Hat's partner conference next week.

This wasn't a case of a bad breakup: Egan left to take a job with Docker, a high-flying startup in the open-source development technology space. Mark Enzweler, Red Hat vice president of global channels and alliances, told CRN he was sad to see Egan go but acknowledged that it was a great opportunity.

Egan was a seven-year Red Hat veteran under whose leadership the company's North America channel sales grew ten-fold. Red Hat is recruiting candidates for a new U.S. channel chief, but Egan will be tough to replace.

Intel announced this week that it is dropping the McAfee brand name, adopting the name "Intel Security" instead. The decision means the end of one of the IT industry's most recognized product names.

Intel acquired McAfee in February 2010 for more than $7.6 billion. Since then, Intel has continued to operate McAfee as a subsidiary and preserved the well-known name. But this week, CEO Brian Krzanich said Intel will begin phasing out the McAfee name immediately, although the process could take as long as a year since it will be done as new products are rolled out.

The marketing decision may or may not be a good one -- only time will tell. But several solution providers told CRN they were surprised by the decision. "They're taking out one of those pillars in the security community," Michael Goldstein, president of McAfee partner LAN Infotech, told CRN.