Jon Roskill is Microsoft's global channel chief. But check the Microsoft organization chart, and you'll discover a cloud channel chief working closely with Roskill. Her name is Gretchen O’Hara, and she's set to address a few hundred managed services providers (MSPs) during the N-able Partner Summit in October 2010. What message will O'Hara share with MSPs? Here are some potential clues.

By now, most readers know about Microsoft's All In channel cloud strategy. At first glance, the strategy is new -- announced shortly before the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC10) in July 2010. But O'Hara has spent considerable time working on Microsoft's channel cloud strategy. My best estimate: She's been focused on channel-related partner strategies since around 2007. Before that, she headed Microsoft's competitive channel strategy vs. Google, Linux and Open Source from around 2005 to 2007, according to her LinkedIn Bio.

During WPC10, O'Hara said Microsoft has about 16,000 SaaS and cloud partners leveraging BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite). But when pressed a bit further, she conceded that only about 8,000 of those BPOS partners have two or more customer engagements under their belts. As most readers will recall, BPOS includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and other Microsoft-developed SaaS applications.

Key Questions

I wonder:
  • How has BPOS performed since WPC10? Quite a few partners are waiting on Microsoft to deliver Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010 via BPOS; right now, BPOS offers older versions of Exchange and SharePoint.
  • Has Microsoft considered any new pricing models and/or partner control models, potentially allowing MSPs and VARs to handle BPOS billing to end-customers? I suspect not, since such flexibility is currently reserved for very large service providers that add value to BPOS.
  • Also, what types of incentives has Microsoft introduced to get more partners to promote BPOS? During the recent XChange conference in Dallas, Microsoft apparently promoted new cloud incentives to motivate partners. What's been the initial reaction to those incentives?
  • My biggest question of all: Can MSPs really, truly profit from BPOS applications. Or will the best Microsoft partners develop application-level expertise... and focus instead on the Windows Azure platform?
I've got plenty more questions. I hope to pose a few to them to O'Hara during the N-able Partner Summit (Oct. 20-22, Scottsdale, Ariz.).

Please note: Speaker lineups for conferences change all the time. As a veteran of the conference business, I know Microsoft's executives sometimes run into 11th hour scheduling conflicts. So, I'm not guaranteeing that O'Hara will be at the N-able event. But to the best of my knowledge, Microsoft's PR team has confirmed O'Hara's intention to participate.

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