Microsoft is kicking off its Fusion 2002 conference in Los Angeles with a bang on Friday, heralding plans to infuse its partner programs with a cool $US500 million.
The investment, which will be rolled out in phases over two years starting next July, represents a 50 per cent increase over last year's annual spending on partner development and support, according to Microsoft officials.
The money will be allocated across three areas, including hiring more field reps to work directly with Microsoft partners; developing new Web-based training tools and the eLearning Center; and boosting the amount and types of partner support.
Microsoft plans to allot 20 per cent of the money toward the headcount increases, including a $4 million shot in the arm for partner account manager training. Close to 30 per cent of the investment will be sunk into Web-based training, including the eLearning Center, which features 11 online courses to date.
Other areas being funded are private newsgroups for partners and better phone support, officials said.
Trying to drive more partners to its Web site makes sense for Microsoft as it attempts to manage relationships with more than 81,000 partners, which run the gamut from the industry's top companies to much smaller entities, according to Dwight Davis, vice president of Summit Strategies, in Kirkland, Washington.
"Microsoft, not surprisingly, has direct one-to-one relationships with their big partners and a one-to-many relationship with smaller partners," Davis said. "The only practical way to do one-to-many type support is via Web site tie-ins and features."
Fusion 2002 is Microsoft's annual partner event. This year, the company is expected to continue evangelising its .Net initiatives and Web services, while promising previews of its "technology evolution for the next six to 18 months".
Keynote speakers will include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Allison Watson, Microsoft vice president of worldwide partner sales and marketing group; and Rose Garcia, Microsoft general manager of worldwide partner sales and marketing.
Davis said Microsoft is likely to steer some discussion at the show toward the company's increased focus on security initiatives. He also expects the troubled economic climate to bubble up as a hot topic among attendees.
"I wouldn't doubt if people will be talking the broader economy and how it affects the channel and Microsoft's partners," Davis said.