Microsoft has its hands full this week, with a channel expansion programme, a channel audit and an antitrust case starting within days of each other.
Microsoft's Business Solutions division is looking to increase its number of channel partners to boost its vertical-market reach.
The division, formed after Microsoft's acquisition of Navision and Great Plains, specialises in ERP financial and supply-chain software and is looking for partners to sell its Axapta Edition 3.0 business management software.
"Although we already have a channel in the UK, we feel the product is so strong that we can bring more organisations into the market," said Dean Carroll, business development director at Microsoft Business Solutions.
He added that partners must have adequate resources to make the product work and be able to build value around the software.
"We have identified a large opportunity for this product and we know that we don't have the coverage in the market that we wish to see," Carroll said.
"This is a positive move for our existing partners because Microsoft will be putting more emphasis around the product."
Carroll added that, although all new partners will initially be classed under one level, the Business Solutions division is considering introducing Certified and Gold partner status levels, and is in the process of rolling out new certification for the Axapta range.
Also this week, all 18 Microsoft large account resellers (LARs) in the UK are taking part in an audit to ensure that their own licensing systems are in order before selling the same products and services to users.
Edward Hyde, licensing and channel sales manager at Microsoft, said that the firm is increasing its focus on software asset management.
"We are trying to achieve prevention rather than cure, and I believe that it will strengthen the hands of both LARs and Microsoft in discussing software asset management with customers," he said.
Steve Reynolds, managing director of Microsoft LAR Civica Services, agreed.
"As a LAR we are expected to devote a lot of resources to best practice in selling. Customers are relying on us for accurate licensing advice and it is critical to ensure standards are maintained," he said.
"There are people out there that are having to cut corners, and in our business we can't afford to let that happen. This is why we welcome this audit."
Ross Miller, managing director of LAR Trustmarque Solutions, also welcomed the audit. "It is a way to establish credibility with customers and prove we are doing a good job as Microsoft partners," he said.
Finally, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a coalition of telephone, computer and consumer electronics firms, has accused Microsoft of attempting to extend its monopoly to new markets and has filed a legal complaint to European antitrust enforcers.
The complaint alleges that Microsoft has violated article 82 of the European Union treaty, and accuses it of illegally bundling competitive products such as music and video-editing software into Windows XP.
It also accuses it of 'screen biasing', meaning that Microsoft's own products get a favourable placement in Windows.
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