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If you are a Microsoft ISV, VAR, or SI partner, you need to be thinking about gaining expertise in the following five technologies. At their annual partner conference in Denver this week, it was clear to me that partners need to spend more time understanding how these technologies will play into their own offerings, and these five will play an increasing bigger role in any new Microsoft products and services. 1. Dot Net.

It is the essential underpinnings of just about everything that Microsoft does these days, and if anything could be called the basic infrastructure of Microsoft’s programming, this is it. I think the days of Dot Net vs. Java are pretty much over, and while there will always be a place for Java, especially for server-based applications, you will need more Dot Net developers and have more sophisticated ways of using Dot Net in the future. Think of Dot Net as the connective tissue that will bind together whatever Microsoft does in the future.

2. Live Services and hosted applications. This is also becoming an essential part of the Microsoft software ecosystem. With the announcement of eCRM and its very competitive pricing, more of Microsoft’s software will be hosted online and offered as a service. This enables partners to sell introductory packages, and upsell later on to migrating these applications in-house. The other part of this story is gaining familiarity with hosted applications: several partners at the conference were talking about hosting Exchange, Sharepoint, and other applications. If you don’t have this capability, it is time you started talking to other Microsoft partners that do and join forces. Part of the hosting story is being able to have access and run a data center. Partners that already do this will continue to be in high demand.

3. Exchange.

It isn’t just email anymore, and so much of what Microsoft is trying to do is based on this set of services. Exchange will handle presence, unified communications, telephony, and integrate into many more of Microsoft’s newer products, including software that runs on Windows Mobile.

4. Sharepoint. This isn’t just for collaboration, but has become its own platform and part of a new breed of services that will involve indexing, search, shared data, and business intelligence types of applications. It could eclipse Notes in terms of delivering collaboration tools if things work out according to plan.

5. Endpoint security. Microsoft showed off its Forefront security platform and how it is integrating the technologies that it obtained from Whale Communications. This is just the beginning of an entire series of products that will fill out its line of endpoint protection. If you haven’t focused on this area, now is the time to get more up to speed. Even though Vista might be the most secure Windows desktop yet, it isn’t secure enough.