Opportunities in the Post-Gates Era

By Sharon Linsenbach  |  Print this article Print

Few doubt Gates influenced Microsoft’s channel philosophy, but the sheer bulk and inertia of a 400,000-strong partner program will roll on with or without the company’s founding father.


Speyer says that while fervor for Microsoft's products such as Vista and Office 2007 has cooled, there are still great revenue opportunities, though VARs will have to work much harder to get it.

"There are ways to grow business and make money with Microsoft, though it may not be just lying out there waiting for the channel to go pick up anymore.  They are going to have to work hard for it, but it is there," Speyer says.

Speyer says the key opportunities lie around Microsoft's Dynamics CRM offerings, business offerings such as ERP and server software, and continued opportunities around hosted Exchange and even Vista.

Cherry advises partners not to count out continued opportunities with servers and the server ecosystem, which VARs already have a great handle on. But partners also need to look in some underserved areas such as the desktop, where sales can be more challenging.

"VARs shouldn't rule out solutions targeted toward helping people reduce the total cost of ownership around desktops -- and I know that sounds like I'm telling them something that's really easy, when in fact it's an incredibly difficult prescription.  It's scary how expensive it is to maintain all these desktops." Cherry says. 

In the wake of Gates' departure, one thing partners can do to ensure their future success is partner not just with Microsoft, but with each other, to ensure they're reaching the widest possible audience.

"I like to call it 'coop-etition,'" Bahl says.  "Partners are realizing that they have to partner with each other and not just with vendors against one another," he says. Microsoft has been instrumental in pushing the concept of partnering to build on each other strengths rather than adding entirely new competency areas within single VARs.

"Microsoft has done a lot toward forging connections between different VARs, which helps us, and it also helps them," Bahl says, "Together we sell and manage many more products."

For now, at least, it seems the titanic Microsoft channel will continue to chug along, whether or not Gates is at the helm.  And while a ship as massive as Microsoft doesn't turn on a dime, the channel will be waiting with bated breath to see what, if any changes are ushered in once the Bill Gates era comes to a close, and, of course, to see what the IT superstar plans to do next. 

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach is a staff writer for eWEEK and eWEEK Channel Insider. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Sharon was Assistant Managing Editor for CRN, a weekly magazine for PC and technology resellers. Before joining CRN, Sharon was an Acquisitions Editor for The Coriolis Group and later, Editorial Director with Paraglyph Press, both in Scottsdale, AZ. She holds a BA in English from Drew University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her significant other and two neurotic cats. When she's not reading or writing about technology, Sharon enjoys yoga, knitting, traveling and live music. Sharon can be reached at Sharon.Linsenbach@ziffdavisenterprise.com.