It seems like Microsoft didn't have a tonne of solid, substantial stuff to say about their products and services at this year's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in the US capital.
They can be forgiven. It's a down year. The heady rush of Windows 8 and the pretzel-like twisting of the Surface tablet marketing spin are safely in the rear view. And let's be honest: new CEO Satya Nadella hasn't exactly covered himself in specific and actionable pro-channel glory since taking over for Steve Ballmer earlier this year.
That made for a pretty squishy plate of presentations at Redmond's biggest channel event of the year. WPC 2014 certainly didn't lack for attendance with an estimated 14,000 partners hitting Stone City - as some call DC - to hear from Microsoft's top executives.
But the fare was fairly fleshless.
Here's a collection of tweeted observations on the goings-on at WPC 2014 as seen through the eyes of the correspondents on the scene, including ChannelWeb.co.uk's and Channelnomics' own intrepid Hannah Breeze.
We tried to mix up the media sources, because the point isn't about blaming the messengers here; they're just calling it as they see it. And the fact that they've had to suffer through some pretty tepid keynotes and breathless data points earns even our most worthy competitors a bit of a nod.
SearchITchannel.com: "Microsoft's Kevin Turner: MS has No. 2 #smartphone OS in 14 markets." - 4:30 PM - 14 Jul 2014
Our take: Well, that is true. Even if global market share for Windows phone is at a paltry four per cent, they do have their sweet spots. It would be helpful to know what those are, however - a factoid Microsoft wasn't as boastful about. For the record, Windows Phone is the number-two smartphone OS, ahead of iOS and behind Android in India, Mexico, Italy, Chile, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, Ukraine, Hungary, Finland, Czech Republic and Greece.
It's worth noting many of the larger markets on the list, particularly India, are places where Nokia has already had a solid running head start.
@HKBreeze: "Microsoft talks up Surface device at #WPC14 - still no word on if/when wider channel can sell it." - 4:21 PM - 14 Jul 2014
Our take: At this point, you almost wish one of the assembled partners in the packed house would shout, "Why mention it then!?" This is the deadest of the dead horses in the Microsoft channel stable. As we've said before, resellers need to forget about Surface, since Microsoft shows no interest in giving partners a crack at it. Instead, solution providers should heed Microsoft's advice and sell the hell out of competing devices.
@WinBetaDotOrg: "Microsoft admits to a 14% device share, 'we have to rethink how we look at our business'" - 8:01 PM - 14 Jul 2014
Our take: The profundity of this stat was lost in Turner's chippy delivery, which began by noting that Microsoft still commands 90 per cent of the PC market, roughly equivalent to owning the bulk of the buggy whip market at the dawn of the Model T era.
Consider for a moment that including all computing devices in operation on Earth, Microsoft powers fewer than one in seven. And in the burgeoning mobile space, they own about one in 25. These are numbers reflective of a company that put a lot of eggs in one basket, then had their basket stolen and their chicken slaughtered.
Turner held out the 86 per cent of the market Microsoft doesn't have as some sort of green-field opportunity of folks looking for a mobile OS to love and cherish. It isn't. Those are Android and iOS users - mostly for life. Redmond is going to need more than a "challenger's mentality" to cross this divide.
@WPC: "#Azure is #Microsoft's #cloud computing platform that allows you to move faster & do more - @ScottGuthrie" - 2:18pm 14 July 2014
Our take: This popped up from Microsoft corporate in the midst of cloud and enterprise buss Scott Guthrie's keynote. We hope it's a bot, because otherwise Microsoft isn't giving partners a lot of credit for knowing the bill of fare. Seriously, can you even get a ticket to WPC if you don't already know this?
Kevin McLaughlin: "Turner says MSFT Hyper-V now 4x cheaper than VMware. Offers to "baptize" (sic) VMware-using partners onstage at #WPC14 , "before it's too late"." - 4:11 PM - 14 Jul 2014
Our take: And a Kia is roughly four times cheaper than a BMW. To be fair, the Microsoft high-fiving around Hyper-V is not without justification. The company has seen impressive gains in market share versus its virtualisation rivals.
Microsoft went from zero to 30 per cent share since Hyper-V's introduction in 2008, while VMware hovers around the 50 per cent mark.
Microsoft would do better to tout a head-to-head comparison of features of the two platforms, an area where Microsoft would look pretty good. But a value play seems short-sighted. And "cheap" is such a tawdry word.
Darryl Taft: "@TheRealBuddyGuy and @QuinnSullivan1 throwing down at Microsoft Partner Conference!" - 1:58 PM - 16 Jul 2014
Our take: OK, that's pretty cool. And Quinn Sullivan is from New Bedford, Mass. The kid is a monster!
ChannelBuzz.ca: "Every partner, regardless of your biz model, will see additional benefits & lower cost of partnering with us," pledged @phil_sorgen." - 2:11 PM - 16 Jul 2014
Our take: So. Many. Words. How's that Surface thing coming along?
David F Carr: "@satyanadella We want Windows to stand for user controlled privacy. Device acting on your behalf, only when you give permission." - 3:39 PM - 16 Jul 2014
Our take: That's a noble cause, even if it smacks of the old Trustworthy Computing initiative that always worked better as a punch line than a development mantra. User privacy, something users should have been able to take for granted, has been turned into a value-added services thanks to secret-sharer Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks.
What, if anything, Microsoft or any other US-based technology vendor can do about privacy at this point remains unclear. That makes statement's like Nadella's, without specifics, feel more like marketing hype than actionable policy.
SearchITChannel.com: "Microsoft's @satyanadella to partners: Many times you're critical of us, and that's what has pushed us to success over the years." - 3:13 PM - 16 Jul 2014
Our take: Well, that's one way to put it. No doubt partners are thrilled to hear that their pain and angst are a source of inspiration for Microsoft. Might be better if Redmond gave the channel less to complain about, but the creative process is what it is, we suppose.
How about all of the partner criticisms that never seem to result in a resolution that benefits the channel as much as it does Microsoft?
The hoarding of Surface comes to mind, as does the death of SBS, Windows Phone 8 crushing previous WinPhone iterations into obsolescence, Windows 8 in general, cuts to the Online Services Advisor Incentives commissions on cloud sales, hiking the price, the frequency and complexity of required certification exams, and on and on.
We know: "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger." But guys, you're killing us.
Chris Gonsalves is vice president of content services at the 2112 Group
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