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WPC 2015 Insider Perspective

American Authors brought in most mornings with songs like the “Best Day of My Life” at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando this year. Along with 12,000 other brave and committed souls, I registered at the airport in 30 seconds and wandered out into the moist and sweltering Florida air. As usual, a lot happened at WPC this year. However, the feel good message against the backdrop of the furnace blast made it surreal.

Attendance was down by over 5,000 while the number of Microsoft partner organizations worldwide remains steady each year at somewhere north of 600,000. If there was someone else from Oklahoma, I didn’t run across them. It wasn’t a surprise as Matrixforce is one of only two Microsoft Gold Partners in the state of Oklahoma. All the other local players for 2015 have appeared to coast by paying nothing, learning nothing, and definitely not helping customers. Our small microcosm is what’s happening around the globe as technology business models shift from hocking wares to providing knowledge.

Unlike Apple or Google, over 95% of Microsoft’s revenue is through partners. The model is providing technology for partners to help customers improve the world. In other words, people helping people. It’s much different than Apple or Google. Despite having a small group of partners, neither behemoth has a partner conference. You buy direct with cold impersonal transactions and respond to the whims of a corporate giant – not a pretty picture at all.

That’s why Microsoft is riding so high nowadays. Empowering people is a better story. Add superior technology along with a smart strategy and Microsoft is poised to slingshot past competitors. Over 200 billion in cash is impressive for Apple, but the reason they’ll miss Wall Street projections is the tired one hit wonder of iPhone. As for Google, do we really need some more ads?

Instead of the normal half-dozen sessions each hour, there were almost two dozen. I still don’t understand how anyone can be in our industry and do no continuing professional education, but here are some key takeaways from the various sessions:

  • Startling Change. I saw things on stage at WPC that you would normally think of from Star Trek Next Generation. Julia White spoke to Cortana and various customer information was displayed on the screen. She then used Gigjam and circled several pieces of output and automatically pushed a new report simultaneously to several smartphone, tablet, and desktop users – while doing a video chat. There was no delay and further the format changed to match each person’s display. Hololens was also used to quickly design a racing motorcycle, apply changes from the group, and then show what it would look like in real life. Microsoft is setting a blazing pace with over 400 free feature updates to offerings like Office 365 and Azure in the last twelve months. Everywhere we look technology is disrupting traditional business with examples like Uber and Airbnb. If you feel discomfort from the dizzying pace of change, you’ll really be upset when you’re no longer relevant.

  • Windows 10. Early release is scheduled for July 29, 2015 and there will be a projected 1 Billion Windows devices by 2018. The start menu is back. Security is even higher. Windows 10 works across all devices, including neat features like projecting your smartphone display to a traditional monitor and using a keyboard and mouse to work with applications on the phone. Even devices like Surface Hub will revolutionize meetings. Windows 10 is a free upgrade for registered Windows 7 & 8 customers for one year. Here’s the kicker: this is the last version of Windows, there will be nothing but Windows 10 in the future just like OS X from Apple, so if you delay upgrading you’re only hurting yourself. Microsoft is eliminating legacy islands of Windows forever and will likely follow suit with all offerings.

  • Partner Engagement. It’s great to leverage a hyper-scale infrastructure around the world, but customers want local support and just one bill. Partners most committed to customers and Microsoft will spend a half million initial cost in implementing integrated purchasing and billing systems. Microsoft spreads some risk and customers win with personalized expertise. However, another wave of product-only partners will fall out of the marketplace because of limited value proposition and lacking capital. Customers interested in the cloud should be especially cautious of any partner that does not implement this model or maintain a Gold Competency.

Not uncharacteristically, the press moved to bash Microsoft handily about cutting more jobs and posting a loss with Nokia. It’s obvious operations in Finland must have been a hot mess. Sometimes the only thing you can do in business is tear things down and start over. However, Surface dominates as iPad continues to decline. Since Google just made apps irrelevant by promoting responsive websites, you have to wonder how Apple will respond.

My focus for this WPC was again Azure and digital marketing, two things mid-sized businesses can’t afford to misunderstand. I’ll be briefing Guardian clients during CIO Reviews and if you’d like to know more about what I learned at WPC, please ask questions in the comments below.

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