WPC 2013 Insider Perspective

WPC 2013 LogoWPC is the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, which actually started annually in 1997.  This year was inHouston on July 7-11 with over 16,000 attendees and a focus on big data, cloud, mobility, and social. This is an insider perspective, not as a Microsoft employee, but as a Microsoft Partner since 1994. No nondisclosure information will be revealed and this post is simply my opinion.

I go to WPC every 2-3 years for continuing education and to maintain expert status and value for clients. Supposedly, WPC attendees are the best and most committed Microsoft Partners. There are over 640,000 Microsoft Partner organizations which means about 20% of the world’s workforce are employed by some type of Microsoft Partner. Some partners make hardware or develop applications, while others just offer services or do a combination of all of the above.

Many partners don’t truly put it together that Microsoft has and always will sell software (even as a service), so to really get noticed you have to put significant software sales on the board – regardless of how much you know about technology or the quality of your product or service. An independent study a few years back found that 70% of all Microsoft Partners weren’t profitable and it’s likely much the same now. Each year I’m still amazed with all the specialization for doctors and lawyers, that many partners still do a wide array of complicated offerings. You see technology is a high risk industry and the only profession not associated with an institution like courts, IRS, or hospitals/insurance. These are simply the facts and not Microsoft’s fault as for under $2,000 per year, Partner’s get over an estimated $300K in value. While that number may offer some minor debate, no one can argue that partners don’t get more than they can possibly absorb or take advantage of each year.

This year WPC was markedly different, starting with registration. For years if you were smart enough to print off the confirmation sheet with the bar code, registration took only a couple of minutes and you were handed a bag or backpack full of swag and sales literature from various industry players. Your badge holder often had a pen and a small booklet of schedules and WPC information behind your badge. This year you were handed a standard badge and lanyard, a thermo-bottle, and a flyer to download the WPC app to your phone. I didn’t mind not having the extra 20 pounds of stuff to carry and knew there would be plenty of swag throughout.

WPC is not your standard convention where you show up and wing it. Depending upon when and what type of registration, the fee is at least $1,500 and you can drop around three grand once you add air fare and hotel. Most of the time there are various sessions each hour, so you need to plan your schedule and what you want to get out of the conference. If you’re unable or don’t want to walk significant distances, then don’t go. WPC had keynotes in the Toyota Center with the remainder in the massive 3 level George R. Brown Convention Center and overflow in the attached Hilton – an easy 5 miles of walking each day.

The keynotes this year were shorter and all in one morning, rather than some each day. The general public doesn’t have a clue, but Microsoft is quite gracious (and always has been) thanking us for attending and selling nearly 90% of their software. It’s not just an annual obligatory thing, but a genuine gesture that we also get at other events throughout the year. Unlike in years past, Steve Ballmer left the over animation and yelling to Jon Roskill and Kevin Turner. Two things stuck out. Ballmer started by saying he was nervous and toward the end he quoted Jeffrey Gitomer’s line “people hate to be sold, but they love to buy”.

I’ve only shaken his hand, but I doubt Ballmer gets nervous. Maybe it was some twinge of how Wall Street or the press are so out of touch or the incredulous amazement of the churn of new partners, knowing even some of the attendees won’t make the leap to required new business models. Only 22,000 partners are transacting business on Office 365, even though it’s wildly popular with customers and over one billion dollars in revenue for Microsoft. The oddly fitting Gitomer quote was maybe in conjunction with big data and the fact that Microsoft now offers content marketing services, since 90% of the world’s information has been generated in the last two years.

Between the above bookend items, the message was clear that Microsoft released more new products last year than any other and was going to continue the that trend this year. Apple and Google have never had to fight a war, much less multiple battlefronts at the same time like Microsoft. Microsoft won by innovating faster and with better features and benefits than IBM, Novell, Oracle, VMware, Corel, Lotus, Netscape, and on and on. Apple is losing to Google in mobile and will come to regret the Mac/PC commercials, as new Microsoft Surface ads make iPad look as ridiculous at it’s name sounds. Windows Phone is a distant third in mobile behind Android and iPhone, but has defeated Blackberry and will enjoy steadily improving market share, because of the same interface on your game console, tablet, PC, server, or ANY other device.

Detractors absurdly believe if the PC is dead, then so is Microsoft. To them devices and services is a new concept, even though Windows is now on all types of devices in a myriad of form factors for home and work. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, other devices (like smartphones and tablets) dwarf the PC market by a factor of 5 and growing meaning there is more Windows than ever before. If you want to know anything else I learned at WPC, just comment below. My focus was two things most of the world hasn’t really heard before: Azure and Yammer. Amazon and LinkedIn should worry.

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