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While Microsoft is expected to use this week’s Worldwide Partner Conference to flesh out its vertical sales push, company brass also are going to detail the small-business and mid-market initiatives that Microsoft will launch in the coming year.

Microsoft’s annual partner conference kicks off on Thursday in Minneapolis. More than 6,000 resellers, OEMs, systems integrators, software specialists and other kinds of partners are slated to attend.

Microsoft execs began detailing Microsoft’s increasingly vertical sales emphasis in March. This week, Microsoft execs will outline a new “Go Vertical” framework, designed to provide partners with training and tools for developing their own vertical sales plans that will mesh with Microsoft’s. Microsoft is expected to evangelize to partners in the ERP and CRM spaces, especially, the importance of refocusing vertically.

Simultaneously, Microsoft is stepping up its sales strategies in the small-business and mid-market spaces.

The company is expected to launch a new program specifically for partners targeting small businesses, known as the “Small Business Specialist Community.” (Microsoft officials said in March they were developing such a program, designed to target resellers that sell to companies with 25 employees or fewer Microsoft networking and system products, including Small Business Server.)

In the mid-market — which Microsoft characterizes as companies with 50 to 250 PCs — Microsoft also is readying a new channel program aimed to step up reseller participation in that arena, sources close to the company said. The company also is expected to take the wraps off what it’s calling the “Microsoft Midmarket Relationship Program,” or MMRP, which is Microsoft’s marketing plan for its own sales force. Microsoft is not expected to unveil officially its pending Windows Midmarket Server at the show, but executives might be discussing the offering privately, sources said.

On the higher end, Microsoft is realigning its own sales force. Company officials are slated to explain to partners how Microsoft is planning to divide its own sales teams in fiscal 2006 into account team, specialist team and partner team units. Microsoft execs recently confirmed that Microsoft is planning to add thousands of new direct sales force members to its ranks in the coming year as part of this realignment.

While the Worldwide Partner Conference tends to focus more on Go-To-Market strategies rather than product details, Microsoft officials are set to talk about Longhorn, Office 12, Exchange 12, Windows Server 2003 R2 and Microsoft CRM 3.0 (the product formerly known as Microsoft CRM 2.0). Microsoft officials also are set to discuss “Maestro” — which Microsoft is planning to christen as “Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Server 2005” and launch in November 2005.

Microsoft execs also are conducting a number of sessions at the conference on Microsoft’s ongoing anti-Linux “Get the Facts” campaign. In fiscal 2006, Microsoft is expected to focus its Get the Facts messaging more around security progress and commitment than it has in the past. Company officials are on tap to detail at the partner show three of its anti-Linux initiatives: Security quality, security management and security innovation.

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