Microsoft platforms (particularly the Microsoft application platform) would not enjoy the success they have had without the Microsoft Partner Program, which helps cultivate a thriving ecosystem of experts who extend and build upon these platforms. As noted on the Microsoft Partner site, the Microsoft Partner Program provides a framework for partners to extend their reach, reduce their operating costs, and deliver innovative solutions in a number of competencies. The program recognizes partners on a number of levels (Registered, Certified, and Gold Certified) based on their expertise and their desired level of engagement with Microsoft.
Each level of the Microsoft Partner Program includes a number of program benefits. Prior to the launch of Visual Studio 2005, certain Microsoft partners (Registered partners in the Microsoft Empower for ISVs program, Certified partners, and Gold Certified partners) received MSDN Universal Subscriptions as part of their benefits package. However, Visual Studio 2005 represents a quantum leap in the evolution of Visual Studio - a revolution, if you will. With the addition of Visual Studio 2005 Team System, Microsoft has expanded into the software development life-cycle tools market by providing role-specific and collaboration tools for the entire software development team, not just developers and architects.
In my Hitchhiker’s Guide to Team System, Parts I & II, I explained how Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition with MSDN Premium Subscription represented a superset of the functionality found in what was the MSDN Universal Subscription. With the restructuring of MSDN as a Software Assurance vehicle for Visual Studio, the benefits package for some partners has changed to accommodate this change in MSDN Subscriptions:
- Registered Partners in the Microsoft Empower for ISVs program and Certified Partners are now receiving Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition with MSDN Premium Subscription as part of their new benefits package, which represents an increase in product functionality version over version (when comparing Visual Studio 2005 Professional with Visual Studio .NET 2003 for Enterprise Architects) than was included in the MSDN Universal Subscription.
- Partners at the Gold Certified level, and Certified Partners in the ISV or Custom Developer Solutions Competency, are receiving an expansion of benefits by being upgraded to the new Team System features found in Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers with MSDN Premium Subscription, which will include the Workgroup Edition of Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server when it ships early next year.
In each case these partners are going to receive comparable or better benefits than they did with the previous MSDN Universal benefit. For partners, the unfortunate challenge has been when they'll receive those benefits. With so much in flux surrounding the launch of Visual Studio 2005, it was inevitable that all of the planets wouldn’t come into alignment as one might have hoped. As a result, Microsoft Partners who are entitled to these new benefits have experienced some difficulty in downloading Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers. This situation should be rectified by the end of next week (UPDATE - This has been rectified as of today, December 15th). Also, the December Monthly Toolkit should contain the appropriate partner media kit. In the interim, Partners at the Gold Certified level, and Certified Partners in the ISV or Custom Developer Solutions Competency, can download Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition.
When Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers becomes available for them to download, they can simply install it on top of Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition. Finally, when Team Foundation Server ships in the first quarter next year, they’ll also have access to the Workgroup Edition that is part of the Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers with MSDN Premium Subscription package. Later this month, partner-only pricing for additional Visual Studio 2005 products will become available, which will arrive through the usual partner channels (UPDATE - This information is now available through the Partner Hotline, as of January 6th). Unfortunately, at this point it’s not possible to provide partners with a choice between the three different role-based products, or an upgrade to Team Suite. For those who intend to upgrade to Team Suite, they can download the 180-day Trial Edition of Team Suite today and similarly install the full-licensed product on top of it when it becomes available for purchase to partners at special upgrade pricing.