A project we've called Partnering for the Future (PFTF) has been bubbling under at our Reading offices for about 6 months now and finally we lifted the lid on it this week resulting in lots of press coverage after Claire and Karl hosted a press roundtable. Here's some of the coverage to date:
We were slightly overwhelmed with the interest level but nonetheless very happy.
In a nutshell, PFTF is all about the next wave of partnerships for Microsoft. With the wide adoption of broadband in the UK, the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS) and the emergence of Web 2.0 and associated new business models around search and advertising there's a whole raft of new opportunity for Microsoft's current partners (35,000 in the UK) and a potential set of new partners. What does that mean? Here are a few examples:
- By some analyst views, >40% of SMBs’ investments in new tech will be SaaS by 2010. That means there is a huge opportunity for existing ISV's to "SaaS enable" their applications and also for new entrants to build web based applications. These could range from fully fledged line of business applications like ERP to more lightweight, vertically oriented applications like a CRM system for dentists or barbers. Seriously, I was in my barbers in London last week and they have Salon Iris that could easily be a SaaS app delivered to every small barbers/hairdresser in the country.
Office Live is now in beta in the UK and doing very nicely. There are a number of case studies that show the huge potential here. If you're an Office Developer, especially a SharePoint developer this platform should be an obvious route for extending your client base. Where previously the cost of sale may have been prohibitive to reach the millions of potential small business customers, you can now build a solution, add it to the Office Live Marketplace and sit back and get paid. If you've never heard of The Long Tail, this is it in action - on a Microsoft platform.
- The Microsoft Expression product set opens up a whole new range of potential partners to Microsoft. Many of these folks live in the Adobe world today and they use a great set of products like Flash and Dreamweaver. We think we have something unique to offer this audience though with the workflow capabilities of Expression helping the designer/developer combination to work together much more closely than they have before. Feedback from people like Conchango suggests there is a whole new market to tap in to here and with global online advertising spending set to hit $35bn in 2008 there is a massive market to tap in to.
- Search is an area that Microsoft has had plenty of criticism in and we continue to work hard to compete with Google on the Internet. Behind corporate firewalls though there is an information glut that search can help with. So called "Information Workers" spend 48% of their time searching for information and analyzing it and with products like the new SharePoint Server for Search, there is a single box solution that can help address these types of challenges. That's to say nothing of the built in search in Vista and Outlook 2007 which have revolutionized the way I work with information.
- We see the potential for completely new channels to market as our software portfolio continues to grow. If you're a house building company, why wouldn't you think about installing a media unit or maybe even a Windows Home Server in every house. If you're an estate agent, why wouldn't you put as much of your business online in attractive and innovative ways like ononemap.com has (okay, I know they're using Google maps...). The routes to market for software are changing dramatically and we're seeing this and adapting to it. Even the supertanker can turn.
- The final area I'd like to mention is Live services and the Web 2.0 arena of mashups and the like. With tools like Expression and Visual Studio I believe we'll start to see more companies like Rightmove embrace Microsoft services such as Virtual Earth. This really is just the tip of the iceberg for this kind of application development on the web.
This hopefully helps to illustrate where there is significant new opportunity for existing partners and also where we expect new partners to engage with Microsoft. We don't expect them to come beating a path to our door hence we're taking more of a Web 2.0 approach to this with blogs from our team covering most of these areas. You'll also see us out in the community much more - I'm always at The Girl Geek Dinners, recently at Chinwag's Wobble 2.0 and if you attended DesignerTopia or FOWA you will hopefully have seen Microsoft people. I hope people are keen to get us more involved in these kinds of events and if you want to see us there, just ask. There is a list below of related blogs from our UK team and they're only too keen to help.
To summarize what is probably my longest blog post ever - this is a VERY interesting time for Microsoft. As the world moves more and more online it presents threats and opportunities for everyone in this game - including Microsoft. Our Partnering for the Future initiative is built on this premise - that the world is changing and we firmly believe we can play a big role in this but our partners can play an even bigger role. Come on in...the water is warming up 🙂
Blogs o' Help
- Claire O'Halloran on SaaS
- Web Agency blog (Emma Bateson and Andrew Shorten)
- Mike Pallot on search
- Christian Longstaff on OfficeLive