Microsoft takes vertical view

Microsoft takes vertical view

Microsoft partners are being encouraged to focus on vertical market opportunities and clearly define their area of expertise.

Speaking at the software giant's annual partner conference, which attracted more than 700 delegates, partner group director, Kerstin Baxter, said the rollout of four new competencies would be a step in the right direction.

The latest additions include mobility, licensing, OEM hardware and custom development solutions. They are based on specified skills criteria and align a partner's business with Microsoft technologies.

Top areas of focus included public sector, financial services, manufacturing, retail and professional services, Baxter said.

"It is important partners understand a customer's business model," she said."So let's make it real, get specific and focus in on key market opportunities. Let's get crisp on what the relationship entails and what our commitments are."

Microsoft also announced a small business specialist program, for partners that were selling to companies with 50 employees or less, and enhancements to its online tools.

To qualify, resellers must pass two exams: the Small Business Sales and Marketing Skills Assessment, along with a technical exam on a specific product or service where the partner has expertise. These could include Small Business Server and the Windows client for system builders.

On the online front, new tools include Solution Finder, where customers can search for partners and their products and services, along with a Partner Channel Builder, which gives resellers online access to networking opportunities.

General manager of sales, Gary Cox, said Microsoft Australia saw 22 per cent growth in its Business Solutions (MBS) division. Servers and tools also saw significant growth of 17 per cent.

While the big push is for partners to get specific and focus on select verticals, Cox said the vendor didn't want to close any doors to partners with a broader focus. In terms of competitive landscape, Cox highlighted Research In Motion's Blackberry device, Google and, of course, Linux.

He also encouraged partners to take aim at groupware and networking packages such as IBM's Notes and Novell's Netware.

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