Roughly 1,600 resellers, VARs, MSPs and channel influencers are on hand for the ConnectWise IT Nation conference in Orlando. The conference has pushed far beyond traditional managed services discussions. In fact, here are eight discussions and trends that surfaced during the initial Exhibit Hall and Keynote gatherings at ConnectWise IT Nation.

1. From Managed Services to Cloud Services: As expected, companies like Channel Cloud, Level Cloud and PointClickWork are on hand, striving to help MSPs become cloud service provides. Behind the scenes, some interesting cloud platform wars are emerging. Channel Cloud apparently runs on EMS Cortex, which Citrix has acquired; while Level Cloud and PointClickWork have deployed their cloud services on OS33.

2. Best Buy-mindSHIFT Reaction: Best Buy's buyout of mindSHIFT for $167 million is the talk of the trade show floor. Small MSPs are wondering if mindSHIFT will continue making acquisitions (answer: yes). Others wonder if mindSHIFT received a good valuation from Best Buy (educated guess: yes; perhaps 10 to 12 times EBITDA, I believe).

3. Broader User Base: ConnectWise is working hard to make sure its software is used by more than MSPs. Resellers, VARs, IT consultants and application developers were in the spotlight during the opening IT Nation session. ConnectWise loves MSPs and recurring revenues, but the company is opening its arms wider to the entire channel.

4. Apple in the House: Apple continues to work more closely with HTG Peer Groups, which hosted its year-end event in coordination with IT Nation. Why is Apple here? My best guess: Apple wants to find channel partners who can integrate iPads, iPhones and Macs with customers' Windows networks and Exchange email systems. HTG has that audience.

5. Focus on Customer Trust: Daniel Burrus, author of Flash Foresight, insisted that key portions of the future are predictable. But to win the future, MSPs and VARs must focus on customer trust.

6. International Concerns: Some MSPs are distracted by a Microsoft strategy in Australia, which involves working with a major service provider to promote Office 365. Small MSPs from Australia are concerned that the strategy will lock some channel partners out of customer opportunities. I will check in with Microsoft for perspectives.

7. Channel Partner Program: LabTech Software is pushing beyond MSPs and VARs as its customer base. The company has launched a channel partner program, through which VARs and MSPs will resell LabTech's software into corporate environments. The move is similar to an established strategy at N-able Technologies, I believe.

 8. Here Comes Symantec: The security and software provider officially launched an MSP partner push.

Side note: Jeannine Edwards, director of community at ConnectWise, has just taken the stage. The unspoken message: ConnectWise is evolving and CEO Arnie Bellini is comfortable extending the main-stage spotlight to his lieutenants... a healthy trend.

That's all for now. We'll be back soon with more updates.