Time is running out for resellers to get certified under Microsoft's old channel scheme, before a new and more challenging certification process is put in place.
The software giant is launching a new partner programme on 23 April, which will see channel membership reclassified into three tiers: Registered Member, Certified Partner and Gold Certified Partner. Afer the end of March resellers will be required to complete the new certification.
"In the past our certification bar has been pretty low, but our new programme is more sophisticated," said Eric Gales, director of the SMS&P managed partner group at Microsoft.
Microsoft is also launching 11 competency levels during 2004 and 2005, including business intelligence, e-business solutions, security, networking and advanced infrastructure services.
"We are trying to build a more structured programme and ensure we can target skills and training at the right partners. Competencies will make it easier for the channel to position skills to customers," Gales said.
He added that the firm is prepared to lose some partners and gain new ones, but that Microsoft "is not worried about losing partners that are not committed".
However, Mike Lawrence, managing director of reseller Bentpenny, was scathing about the changes. "I can't see how this will benefit partners and it seems very turnover-oriented," he said.
"Microsoft always seems to be changing its channel programme and a lot of partners are getting tired of it. It seems the more VARs are willing to spend with Microsoft, the better they'll do."
Separately, Microsoft has countered claims that it is re-allocating the business investment fund it operates to help resellers cover the cost of proof-of-concept technology installations, in favour of security VARs.
As well as the fund, Microsoft also offers Make it Right funding to partners or customers that have suffered problems as a result of the vendor's technology.
However, some market watchers have accused the firm of channelling money from both funds into security issues.
Alex Keay, group manager for training and certification at Microsoft UK, said: "These are separate funds, controlled independently.
"In fact, Microsoft is putting additional investment into security partners, completely apart from these funds."
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