With the launch of its Windows XP operating system on Thursday, this week is a significant one for Microsoft and its army of channel partners.
Just about every company in the channel has at some stage sold, customised or serviced one of Microsoft's operating systems or applications. This means just about all ARN readers will be watching to see just what sort of boost the much-touted new OS can give to a flagging industry.
If corporate, government, education and home users can be coaxed into buying Windows XP and the appropriate hardware to run it on, it's going to be a great Christmas. If these buyers don't emerge, it's hard to see where the next stimulant for the channel will emerge from.
The $64 billion question: will XP fly, or will it be a lame duck?
We're all hoping it's the former, but in reality its impact on retail traffic, peripherals sales and corporate systems upgrades will remain an unsolved mystery until Microsoft unleashes its caged marketing beast and the product is actually available off the shelf.
Clearly Microsoft's Windows 2000 platform, which underpins XP, is a marked improvement on its Windows 9x older brother, delivering improved stability and integration with applications. But is it enough when the world is currently in the midst of such economic and social upheaval?
Microsoft's dominance of the desktop operating systems market is almost absolute, so the product will inevitably sell in large numbers over its full life cycle as most new systems will be loaded with it until the next upgrade comes along.
The long-term success of XP seems assured. The crucial factor for Microsoft and its channel partners is whether the new OS houses enough whiz-bangery and new stability to stimulate a hardware upgrade cycle among corporates, small businesses and home users now, when it is most needed.
Catching a piggyback ride with this issue of ARN is a 64-page special publication, specifically focused on the channel perspective of XP.
We have attempted to arm the channel with information that will help you understand and sell Windows XP. It includes reviews of the product, upgrade implementation guidelines, case studies of channel partners that have geared up for the launch, and a wide range of opinions on what the launch can do for the Australian channel.
It also provides details on how channels can hook into a wide range of resources that have been made available and takes a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the development, marketing and launch of a core product such as a Microsoft OS. It makes fascinating reading.
I urge you to keep this Windows XP special handy and use it regularly as a resource guide to see how some of the leading channel players are taking advantage of the launch. I would also suggest you make it compulsory reading for all your sales staff (if they're not already receiving their own copies). It will explain why they should be using XP as an opportunity to reconnect with existing customers and how they can use it to create new business.
When times are exacting, as they are at present, anybody who knocks back a leg-up is not taking full advantage of the situation. Windows XP could be the last big boost for the channel until the global economy turns the corner.