Microsoft's offer of free exams towards achieving the new Small Business competency has been met with scepticism by partners, which suggest that the offers indicate low levels of interest in the accreditation since it changed last year.
Last March, the Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) was canned in favour of the addition of the Small Business competency to the Microsoft Partner Network.
Some 2,000 free vouchers, which are valid for exams 74-324 in Administering Office 365 for Small Businesses, were made available by the vendor last week, with an additional 1,000 added on Tuesday.
Microsoft has also extended its offer for partners to achieve the full Small Business Competency for $999 (£632) until 30 June. The standard price is $1,850.
Some resellers said they do not see the benefit of the competency since it changed from SBSC in 2012, suggesting that this is the reason behind the new financial incentives.
Paul Dadge, managing director of PC Paramedics, said he thinks the vendor knew the competency changes would put off some resellers.
"Microsoft knew they would lose a large number [of partners] but now [I think] the figures are much lower than they thought," he added.
"Eric Ligman [Microsoft's sales excellence programme manager] is giving out free exams to ramp up the people [getting] to the Small Business competency... This has never been seen before."
When the Silver Small Business competency was introduced, it was offered at a discounted price of $999 until 31 December last year, which has now been extended until the middle of this year, after which it will return to the standard Silver competency price of £1,850.
Andy Trish, NCI Technologies' managing director, agreed that the move to reduce the cost of the competency could be an indication of low interest since the changes were made.
He said: "Customers do not understand what a competency is, and partners have no faith in taking them. Paying a fee for something may give you licences, but if you are a one-man band, it is cheaper to just buy a licence.
"[Microsoft] has had a high uptake on [the free exams], but that is just because they are getting £100 worth of exams for free."
Microsoft's Ligman said on his blog that uptake of the freebies and discounts has been swift, claiming that about 1,000 exam registrations had taken place in days.
ChannelWeb was awaiting further comment from the vendor at the time of publication.
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