[ISN] Microsoft to pitch security as 'competitive advantage'

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Fri Jul 09 2004 - 03:50:57 PDT


[Actions speak louder than words, words that were already hashed out 
at the 2003 Worldwide Partner Conference which Ballmer said basically 
the very same stuff, yet no one has yet to see it. 
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2003/10-09wwpc.asp  - WK]

By Joris Evers
IDG News Service

Microsoft will pitch security as a "competitive advantage" at its 
worldwide partner conference in Toronto next week, but it may be a 
tough sell to attendees who are still waiting for the software maker 
to deliver on some of last year's security-related promises 

Microsoft's second annual Worldwide Partner Conference kicks off 
Sunday. The three-day event is focused on helping its partners to sell 
more Microsoft products. 

Attendees at last year's event, in New Orleans, cheered when Microsoft 
CEO Steve Ballmer addressed head-on some of the security challenges 
the software maker faces and outlined steps it said it would take to 
address them. 

However, Microsoft has yet to deliver on most of the promises Ballmer 
made. For example, customers are still waiting for a single patching 
experience and an update to the Software Update Services (SUS) patch 
management tool, both of which Ballmer said would be out in the first 
half of 2004, and both of which have been delayed. 

Additionally, Ballmer promoted the security enhancements in Service 
Pack 2 for Windows XP. That update was scheduled to be released in the 
first half of the year but has also been delayed and is now expected 
some time in the third quarter. 

As a result, many of Microsoft's partners will come to Toronto with 
the same concerns about security that they had last year, said Paul 
DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. The concerns may have 
even grown because of the recent attacks on Microsoft's Internet 
Explorer Web browser, he said. 

"There have been enough fires between now and last year's Worldwide 
Partner Conference; security is still going to be a preoccupation for 
partners," DeGroot said. "The things that Ballmer promised progress on 
haven't been achieved." 

IDC Research Director Marilyn Carr agreed. "You can expect to hear the 
same issues tabled this year, as they have not gone away," she said. 
Partners, just like end-users, want Microsoft to make it less of a 
headache to keep up with security patches, she said. 

Microsoft has planned 10 sessions in a special security breakout track 
at the event. The introduction to the track on Microsoft's Web site 
makes it seem as though the vendor believes its security challenges 
are a thing of the past. "Clearly security has become a competitive 
advantage as we engage with our mutual customers," it reads. 

Ballmer is set to address the partner audience on Tuesday, the final 
day of the conference. He will be joined on stage by Mike Nash, head 
of Microsoft's Security Business and Technology Unit. A 
security-related announcement is expected, but Microsoft declined to 
comment ahead of the event. 

Partners come to the event looking for guidance on Microsoft's 
strategy and for information that will make it easier for them to sell 
their products. It includes keynote speeches, breakout sessions and 
hands-on labs, as well as an extensive opportunity to network with 
other partners and Microsoft experts. 

Over 5,000 paid attendees have registered this year, about 20% more 
than last year, according to Microsoft. Tracks that include some of 
the sessions include sales and marketing, business leadership, 
application platform opportunities and vertical markets. 

Aside from security, another challenge for Microsoft is persuading 
users to upgrade to the latest versions of its software. Microsoft 
sells most of its software through its partners, so it is important 
for it to give them the right training. Sessions have been planned on 
moving customers from Windows NT 4.0 and Exchange 5.5 to newer 
editions of those products. 

On the desktop, Microsoft has made it a priority to sell more copies 
of Office 2003 and Windows XP. At the event it will discuss its latest 
"desktop deployment initiative" and a tool called the "solution 
accelerator for business desktop deployment" to make it easier for 
partners to deliver systems with those products. 

Microsoft will also try to motivate partners to sell annuity licensing 
contracts in a session called "How to succeed at selling Software 
Assurance ... and profit from managing it." Some users have balked at 
Software Assurance, saying it doesn't deliver enough value for money. 
The plan includes support and upgrades in exchange for a three-year 
contract and an annual fee. 

This year's partner conference will be the second event to combine 
Microsoft's "traditional" partners with those that it inherited when 
it bought Great Plains and Navision, applications vendors that are now 
part of Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS). 

Microsoft has also been consolidating its various partner programs 
into a single, global Microsoft Partner Program, announced in October. 
The new program went into effect in January and will be implemented in 
phases through 2005. MBS partners started to join this month, and the 
transition has not gone completely smoothly. 

"Microsoft is at a very transitional stage," Directions on Microsoft's 
DeGroot said of the vendor's partner organization. "I expect them to 
announce a few additional services for partners at the conference, but 
I think they are in a situation where they probably don't want to 
significantly tweak the partner program." 

Manufacturing Resource Partners (MRP), one of Microsoft's MBS 
partners, is looking to learn more about the new partner scheme in 
Toronto. "I expect a lot of focus on increasing the MBS partners' 
understanding of the new Microsoft Partner Program," said Dan 
Abernathy, managing director at MRP, in Reno, Nev. 

Abernathy also hopes that Microsoft will provide clear guidance on its 
marketing plans for ERP products. "Microsoft has done a poor job of 
differentiating the ERP products from the marketing of the operating 
system and desktop products. We still have prospects that do not know 
Microsoft has ERP solutions," he said. 

Andrew Grose, president and CEO of Microsoft partner Nortec 
Communications, in Falls Church, Va., is heading to Toronto primarily 
to network and to attend sessions about business development, he said. 

"I wanted to see more business development content. I don't have an 
opportunity to go away for two or three days all the time," he said. 
Grose asked for the sessions to be led by non-Microsoft speakers, and 
Microsoft responded by booking a sales expert from Huthwaite, the 
company run by Neil Rackham, author of a sales strategy book called 
Spin Selling. 

Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference starts Sunday and ends 

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