Microsoft is gunning for the public sector and intends to use its channel to win the battle.
The vendor has developed a free online marketplace to link public-sector customers across EMEA with qualified partners.
The Public Sector Partner Marketplace will be launched formally at Tech Ed Europe on 29 June. Microsoft has said that by then it expects to have entries for about 300 public-sector information and IT systems.
Information will include systems and services from VARs, systems integrators, ISVs, trainers and consultants.
Matthew Bishop, director of government at Microsoft EMEA, said: "This move supports our aim to work more closely with customers. It will give them faster access to information."
Stephen Hedegaard, sales director at Microsoft Gold Partner Civica Services, said: "It sounds excellent. Anything that increases the profile of Microsoft partners is a good thing."
Bishop said EMEA was chosen first for the roll-out because of its variety.
"It's a perfect place for testing the marketplace," he said. "It has diverse countries, customers and companies. If it works here, we're pretty sure it will work across the world."
Microsoft said partners can create incremental revenue by marketing their products and services on the web site and identifying opportunities to work with complementary businesses.
But Eric Woods, government practice director at analyst firm Ovum, was sceptical. "Microsoft sees open source as a competitive factor. It is there as a shadow on anything Microsoft does in the public sector," he said.
"This move makes the firm more visible as a 'good citizen' to customers, making a positive contribution to local economies.
"Microsoft wants to get away from any appearance of 'open source good and free, Microsoft expensive and bad'."
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