htg_peer_membersI just spent a few minutes with HTG peer group founder Arlin Sorensen here at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 (WPC09) in New Orleans. I'm hardly surprised to learn that Sorensen and I have similar missions at WPC09. Yes, we'll learn a bit about Microsoft's partner plans for Windows 7 and Office 2010. But ultimately, we're here to learn how managed service providers will potentially profit from Microsoft's cloud strategy.

HTG peer groups allow VARs and MSPs to sit across the table from one another and compare business performance -- in private sessions. Roughly two-dozuen HTG peer group members are here at the WPC09 conference.

Two key terms come to mind before the event keynotes start in a few minutes:
  • Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), the company's strategy for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and other software as a service (SaaS) options. I'll be speaking with Microsoft's Eron Kelly about that strategy.
  • Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud-centric Windows platform. I'm meeting with Microsoft's Prashant Ketkar for an update.
During our meeting this morning, Sorensen said point blank: For him, this week's conference is all about Microsoft's partner (and profit) strategy for MSPs that work with Microsoft's SaaS and cloud technologies. I'm on the same page.

To be sure, there's a mixed mood here at the conference. It's good to see thousands of VARs and MSPs in one setting, striving to march forward amid the recession. But there's no avoiding a recession discussion.

In fact, during a few informal meetings here, VARs and MSPs mentioned to me that their businesses improved/stabilized somewhat in Q2, but they're increasingly concerned about a slower-than-expected recovery. Translation: It seems like Q3 is off to a difficult start for many attendees here.

I'll be back throughout today -- and throughout the week -- offering perspectives from WPC09, BPOS, Windows Azure, plus interviews with many of the top minds from across the MSP landscape.

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