Microsoft (MSFT) held its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington DC – the first one with cloud-centric CEO Satya Nadella at the helm of the company talking about the company's mobile and cloud future -- and announced the biggest layoffs in the company’s history last week. So there’s a lot to cover today. Here’s what you should know.

New CEO takes the stage. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed partners last week as CEO for the first time at a WPC and shared his thoughts on the future for Microsoft and its partners. It’s no surprise that this cloud-focused CEO’s message was about opportunities for partners in the cloud and in mobile technology. MSPmentor blogger Dan Kobialka covered the Nadella keynote here.  Nadella told partners:

"There are going to be over 3 billion people with connected devices. There's going to be over 200 billion sensors out there. The amount of application development that spans all of that computing is going to explode. They're going to both generate tons and tons of zettabytes of data, [and] they're also going to consume and reason over that large data."

Other topics Nadella covered included Microsoft’s Big Data plans and the company’s focus on end-user infrastructure.

Microsoft's announcements for partners

Microsoft’s messaging around partners owning the customers was stronger than it's ever been before. For instance, here’s what the company said about the Microsoft Cloud Provider program in a press release issued in conjunction with WPC: “[The] program allows partners to own 100 percent of the customer lifecycle, with partners serving as the only contact for all customer needs, including: billing, provisioning, support and, most importantly, the ability to sell their own tools, products and services. This new program provides our partners with complete control, and ensures our mutual customers can rely on their partner to ensure they’re getting the most out of their Microsoft cloud solutions. This program starts with Office 365 and Windows Intune, and will eventually cover all Microsoft cloud services.”

Microsoft also announced that it is integrating the cloud into the Microsoft Partner Network with three new cloud-focused competencies, SMB cloud solutions (for partners selling Office 365 into SMBs), cloud productivity (for partners deploying Office 365 into enterprise customers, and Cloud Platform (for partners delivering infrastructure, platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

The new program will take the place of Cloud Accelerate, Cloud Deployment and Azure Circle programs, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also said it would waive the first year fee for Silver cloud competencies, enhance internal use rights for Office 365 and Azure providing between 25 percent and 200 percent more IUR licenses depending on competency level achieved. In addition the company is offering Signature Cloud Support to partners starting in September, giving partners direct contact to what Microsoft says is a high-quality support team.

Other announcements include the following:

  • Azure Machine Learning University, a portfolio of online self-service learning assets designed to get partners started with Azure ML. Machine Learning University will provide partners with an overview of Azure ML, and walk through the data science life cycle from importing data to building predictive models and deploying in production.
  • An Azure Certified program. This new logo certification program will empower Microsoft partners to grow their business through new opportunities to promote and sell their applications and services on Azure. Today the program begins as Microsoft Azure Certified for Virtual Machines, with partner applications offered in virtual machines that are deployable from the Azure Management Portal. Early program members include Azul Systems, Barracuda, Bitrock, Oracle, Riverbed Technologies and SAP. Learn more on the Azure blog.
  • Dynamics CRM Online will be coming to Open later this fiscal year. Together with the evolution of the Dynamics partner program to emphasize readiness and training, the addition of Dynamics CRM Online to Open will make it easier for partners to sell to SMBs
  • The Dynamics announcement follows Microsoft’s plan to enable Azure in Open in August. By offering all of our commercial cloud solutions in Open, Microsoft says partners have “a consistent and familiar licensing option that offers the benefits of Microsoft Volume Licensing, flexible monetary payments, and additional opportunities to grow revenues and deepen customer relationships.”
  • A new marketing initiative called ModernBiz focuses on business issues and cross-product solution scenarios tailored to the specific needs of SMBs.

Microsoft ended the week on a darker note, announcing layoffs -- the largest layoffs in the company's history.

Mary Jo Foley reports that while 12,500 of the 18,000 people to be cut by Microsoft are former Nokia employees who joined the company as part of last year’s acquisition.

Paul Thurrott has former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s memo to those employees here, and CEO Satya Nadella’s memo to all employees here.  Another 5,500 are being cut across other groups in the company.

Foley reports that Microsoft’s unified Operating System Group under EVP Terry Myerson is one of the big targets here.  Affected employees should have gotten the news on Friday, according to this internal memo obtained by Foley.

Did we miss anything? Let us know what you think about Microsoft's news in the comments below.