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As competitive threats to the world’s largest
software company have grown, Microsoft Steve Ballmer told IT solution providers
at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference, held July 11 to July 15, that
they will play a critical role as the industry as a whole moves to the cloud.

Microsoft executives touted the company’s 500,000 online seats in applications
such as SharePoint, and showcased forthcoming features of Microsoft’s Office
productivity suite that will link applications to social networking in a way
that hasn’t been possible before.

Additionally, Ballmer promised a family of PC tablet computers in the months to
come that would be based on Windows and go up against the Apple iPad.

"You will see a range of Windows 7 slates," Ballmer told the solution
provider representatives who converged on Washington
for the conference. "They will run Windows 7. They will run Office. They
will accept ink- as well as touch-based input."

While much of computing seems headed for the cloud, the migration has left some
channel partners wondering about the business model that will emerge for them
out of the change. Those who are used to the upfront payment that comes with an
outright hardware or license sale have expressed uncertainty about the annuity
type of model that comes with the cloud.

But many consider the en masse move to the cloud for computing to be an
inevitability, and Ballmer urged partners to get on board with Microsoft’s
cloud plans, promising opportunity and support.

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"We are at an inflection point in technology history," Ballmer said.
"For customers, cloud computing creates tremendous value, which translates
to massive opportunity for Microsoft and its partners. As in past technology
transitions, Microsoft will help partners embrace the industry’s transformation
to realize their opportunity and continue to be economic drivers for their
local community."

Analyst company IDC has said the cloud will
drive 19 percent of new growth in software spending in 2013 to 2014 and cloud
spending will grow five times faster than all applications spending.

Other announcements from Microsoft on the first day of the WPC
included the following:

  • A Microsoft
    Azure Appliance
  • Enhancements to the Microsoft
    server platform that make it easier for customers and partners to build
    cloud solutions, including the Release Candidate of the System Center
    Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal 2.0
  • Microsoft
    Management and Virtualization Solution Incentive and the Private Cloud
    Deployment Kit,
    offering financial rewards and guidance to partners as
    they build virtualization and private cloud solutions
  • The beta release of Windows 7
    Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service
  • Partnerships with Ingram
    Micro and Tech Data on Microsoft Online Services.
  • Partnerships with telephone
    service providers, including Bell
    Canada and
    BT, on Microsoft Online Services