Microsoft VARs will receive a cash injection of $200m next year as the vendor re-directs marketing funds from direct sales operations and offers partners additional training, the firm said at its recent partner conference.
Microsoft claimed the increase in channel investment from $1.5bn to $1.7bn will cover additional field specialists, including system builders and ISVs, training, sales and marketing support, and services.
It is also adding 200 technical specialists, 35 per cent of whom will specialise in Microsoft Business Solutions, working closely with Microsoft partners.
Allison Watson, vice-president of Microsoft's worldwide partner sales, said: "We reached the economic turning point in 2003; now we have to capture that opportunity. Customers are demanding increased partner expertise and they will get it."
Two new modules, licensing and software management, have been added to the company's core competency programme, and more are likely to follow. All Gold partners must have at least one core competency by the end of the year.
"I launched the new partner programme nine months ago," said Watson. "Now it's about building velocity."
In addition, each of Microsoft's global subsidiaries will divert 35 per cent of global marketing funds from direct marketing to help partners through joint marketing.
Tony Price, managing director of online VAR WStore, said: "Any additional training is welcome. I'd like to see Microsoft building tools to help us explain licensing options to customers.
"Currently, we're using ones we've built ourselves. Anything that makes it easier for customers to understand the choices makes it easier for us to sell the products."
Mike Lawrence, managing director of VAR Bentpenny, said the money invested in training could go to waste if Microsoft does not address quality issues.
"Too often training courses degenerate into marketing pitches, and the reseller gains very little technical knowledge," he said.
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