Microsoft enhancing ISV programs

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A key Microsoft partner executive has touted new initiatives to recruit and support ISVs in its continuing effort to promote the company as the ISV's best friend.

Microsoft plans to step up not only technology enablement of its ISV partners but also go-to-market efforts in order to recruit new ISVs and keep existing partners happy, said Mark Young, general manager of .NET ISVs in the platform strategy and partner group, speaking at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus.

While many of those efforts will be around evangelising the value Microsoft can provide to the ISV community, others will be enhancements to existing programs, Young said.

For example, Microsoft is planning initiatives to urge ISVs to migrate from Unix, Linux and IBM AS/400 platforms to Windows, he said.

Other program extensions will focus on four goals: allowing ISV partners to connect and extend customer offerings; driving user productivity; evolving existing applications; and making applications more manageable and secure, he said.

Microsoft's relationship with ISVs has been rockier than the company would like to admit. Many third-party software providers view Microsoft's acquisition of Great Plains and the launch of the Microsoft Business Framework as encroaching on their turf.

Two Microsoft ISV partners, Epicor and AtHoc, made presentations at the event to give testimony about how Microsoft's recent ISV efforts resulted in the successful and profitable deployment of applications.

Following the presentations, one audience member questioned the executives about whether the Great Plains acquisition had affected their partnership with Microsoft. John Hiraoka, senior vice president of marketing at Epicor, said that on contrary, his company has gotten more attention from Microsoft now that the vendor competes with Epicor on some levels.

Hiraoka also said because Microsoft's applications strategy is more transparent, it is easier to pick and choose where Epicor sees the most opportunity to partner with Microsoft. 'On the ISV side, it's a level playing field,' he said. 'They let us know the roadmap so we can determine where we want to be competitors or partners.'

Microsoft may be responding to competition. With IBM's recent aggressive moves in the ISV space, particularly in the mid-market, Microsoft has been pushed to step up its ISV efforts, said James Governor, an analyst with Red Monk.
'Microsoft is worried about the IBM perceived momentum in this space,' Governor said. 'Microsoft doesn't have a Linux story, and a lot of ISVs are looking at Linux. Microsoft has an applications business [that competes with ISVs]. There is a lot of disenchantment in the community.'

IBM is hosting its annual partner lovefest in Las Vegas in early March at which it is expected to add to its ISV support programs.

IBM executives for more than a year have said that company is a better partner to application providers because IBM Software does not compete in applications, focusing instead on middleware and infrastructure. However, sceptics say IBM competes at some levels, depending on how application is defined. IBM fields its own content management applications, for example.

Speaking to CRN, Young said Microsoft's ISV strategy has not changed in any way because of IBM's aggressive recruitment of ISVs. 'We've always had an ISV focus,' Young said. 'We don't do anything different because IBM now says they're going to take the SMB space more seriously.'

Young admitted that some business units within Microsoft, such as the division responsible for the SQL Server database, have had a stronger ISV strategy than others. But Microsoft is now trying to drive ISV partner efforts across all of its products, he said.

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