This is the most "epic year in Microsoft history", according to CEO Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer touted the opportunities a wave of new products being unveiled this year will create for partners, in a keynote speech before 16,000 at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this week.
Microsoft used the morning keynote to announce Windows 8's availability to manufacturing and the general public, as well as outline a plan to let partners resell the Office 365 cloud application suite and bill customers for the subscriptions
The move eliminates a point of contention that has existed between Microsoft and its partners since Office 365 went live more than a year ago.
But channel partners weren't included in the company's Surface plans, with Microsoft confirming it currently only has plans to sell the devices through its retail stores and some online sites.
"I will tell you, our partners, that this year, this year, is the most important year of unparalleled opportunities," said Ballmer at the event.
"The chance to strike, the chance to make a difference, the chance to build your business, the chance to grow," he said.
The theme of Ballmer's address was the wave of new products Microsoft has already introduced this year and will be debuting later this year.
"It's Windows, it's Windows Phone, it's Windows Servers, it's Windows Azure, it's Office. It's the core of Microsoft reinventing itself for a modern era," he said. "This year will be the best year ever, ever, ever, to be a Microsoft partner."
Opening the keynote session, Jon Roskill, corporate vice president and head of the worldwide partner group, said Microsoft's partners generated $US609 billion in total sales last year, up 13 percent from the previous year.
"Microsoft and its partners are getting it right, and we're onto something big," he said.
Ballmer called Windows 8 "simply the biggest deal for our company in 17 years," a reference to the launch of the breakout Windows 95 desktop OS.
"It's a huge opportunity for our partners."
But upgrades to the current generation Windows 7 has also presented opportunities for partners as well. Reller said more than 50 percent of all enterprise desktop PCs are now running Windows 7 and more than 630 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold overall.
Boosting Office 365 channel sales
The other big applause generator was the announcement of the Office 365 Open Program under which channel partners can buy Office 365 subscription keys from Microsoft, resell them to customers and directly bill customers for the subscriptions along with other services.
Until now Microsoft controlled the Office 365 billing, a policy some partners felt got between them and their customers.
Partners can continue to offer Office 365 under the existing Office 365 Advisor program under which partners received a percentage of the subscription fees for reference-selling the cloud application suite.
Monday, Microsoft announced that it is increasing those margins up to as much as 23 percent, 11 points more than today, when they sell more than 150 seats of Office 365, said Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division.
This article originally appeared at crn.com
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Issue: 345 | December 2015