Ballmer Says Microsoft in 'Epic Year' with Windows 8, Office
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on Monday by declaring that Microsoft is in "an epic year."
"This will be the biggest product and services launch year in our company's history, creating massive opportunities for our partners to grow their businesses," Ballmer said in his keynote. He pointed to Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure, as well as Office 365.
The Worldwide Partner Conference is a four-day event that celebrates the accomplishments of the company's more than 640,000 partners and offers a preview of new product releases for the coming year. About 16,000 were in attendance on the first day.
One bit of news divulged was that Windows 8 will be released to manufacturing early next month and will be on store shelves by late October.
Office 2010 Milestones
Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division, announced that 1 billion people worldwide now use Microsoft Office. Microsoft said Office 2010 was the most popular-ever version of the productivity suite. According to the company, someone buys a copy of Office 2010 every second.
DelBene also announced two new investments in Office 365 partners. First, Office 365 Open is a new way for partners to sell Office 365. It establishes a traditional reseller model that aims to help partners drive more revenue, deliver packaged services with a single invoice, and own the customer relationship.
Meanwhile, the Office 365 Advisors Program updates let the most active partners earn more up front with Office 365. Partners who sell more than 150 seats are eligible to earn more revenue.
"The Office Division has never been stronger, and our amazing partners are critical to this success. Office is now used by more than a billion people, and Office 365 is on track to be one of the fastest-growing offers in our history," DelBene said. He predicted the investments announced at the conference will fuel even more robust growth ahead.
A Perception Battle
Rob Enderle, principal analyst the Enderle Group, said this year's Worldwide Partner Conference comes at a time when some are starting to doubt whether Microsoft is the power.
"So much has been happening around Apple and Google," Enderle told us. "A lot of developers have moved over to those platforms and Microsoft is trying to remind its partners that, regardless of hype, they are still in this game and in their key products they still sell more than Apple and Google."
Enderle said it's all about perception -- and Microsoft has been losing the perception war for some time. This, he said, is an attempt to gain that back so people will consider them as viable again.
"Clearly from the standpoint of how Microsoft is trading, I don't think the people investing in Microsoft get this yet. But you have to start someplace, and with partners isn't a bad place to start," Enderle said.
"Taking hold of and changing the perceptions that surround the company is a requirement if you want to raise the valuation and get people back into the fold. I think RIM showcased what can happen if you let that go to long. Microsoft is taking a step in the right direction."