Partners Get Their Marching Orders on Marketing Vista

Windows Vista or else, says Ballmer to partners.

Microsoft is beginning to coach partners on how to pitch the upcoming Windows Vista operating system to business customers.

A major operating system release is the biggest of Microsoft channel opportunities. Analysts anticipate that between 100 million and 130 million PCs will ship with Windows Vista by the end of 2007 and the release is expected to stimulate hardware, software and services purchases. In the run-up to a major launch, Microsoft spends years educating ISVs and corporate developers, months preparing solution providers and IT administrators and weeks of intensive end-user marketing. With the OS currently scheduled for full release early next year, the company's efforts to ready the solution provider channel are in full swing now.

In a series of training presentations available on its partner site, Microsoft has outlined its marketing campaigns for the OS so that partners can begin crafting their own business plans and developing sales and marketing campaigns.

While the snazzy "Aero Glass" interface gets the most attention, Microsoft wants partners to focus business customers' attention on the security and reliability that the company contends were the top priority in this release, which has been five years in development.

Offering a "sneak preview" of Microsoft's marketing plans, the presentations note that the company's marketing approach centers on working with partners to deliver specific "customer scenarios" for Windows Vista.

"These Customer Scenarios represent identified hot spots of customer demand where Windows Vista delivers functionality above and beyond previous versions of Windows, and where partners can add their products and services to deliver a complete package of value to customers," a Microsoft presentation notes.

Microsoft is tailoring those scenarios to two audiences: small businesses and midsize/enterprise organizations. Continued next page

Small-business scenarios emphasize basic functions, including:

  • Data back-up and security
  • Mobility and collaboration
  • Sales and marketing
  • Financial management

Midsize/enterprise scenarios emphasize ways that customers can:

  • Optimize desktop infrastructure
  • Enable mobile workers
  • Improve security and compliance
  • Find and use information

The first two small-business scenarios -- data back-up and security and mobility and collaboration -- are fairly self-explanatory. Both depend on new OS features that partners can enable and enhance. In those areas, Microsoft is trying to provide small businesses with the IT practices for security and disaster recovery and the advanced capabilities in mobility and collaboration that larger organizations have used for years.


Essential Vista Versions

Windows Vista represents an overhaul of the editions of the Windows desktop. Business-focused partners need to understand three main versions:

Windows Vista Business This is the recommended version for business desktops and mobile PCs in companies ranging from small businesses to large enterprises. It goes beyond consumer editions by including:

  • Windows Tablet and Touch Technology
  • Windows Mobility Center and Windows MeetingSpace
  • Domain Join
  • Group Policy support
  • Encrypting File System
  • Small business-specific features (Windows Fax and Scan and Small Business Resources)

Windows Vista Enterprise Available only through Software Assurance, this version goes beyond Windows Vista Business with:

  • Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption
  • All worldwide user-interface languages
  • Virtual PC Express
  • Subsystem for UNIX Applications (SUA)

Windows Vista Ultimate Billed as the "flagship" edition for consumer and small business desktop and mobile PCs, this version includes all the home entertainment features of Vista Home Premium and the business features of Windows Vista Enterprise -- at a premium price. -- S.B.

For the sales and marketing scenario, Microsoft is emphasizing the ability of small businesses, with partner help, to respond faster to business opportunities and stay connected to customers. Some of this capability depends on a cross-sell -- Vista features integrated with CRM applications and sales-management applications from Microsoft and others. But a few capabilities, such as enhanced Windows Search and Windows MeetingSpace, are billed as stand-alone improvements that partners can help small business customers develop into sales and marketing aids.

Likewise, the financial-management customer scenario has cross-sell and stand-alone angles for partners. In addition to offering integration with financial-management applications and online-payment services, partners can add value through synchronization manager functionality that Microsoft says will help small companies streamline business processes and share financial information with outside parties. Microsoft says that Vista's Windows Presentation Foundation will also make it easier to visually analyze financial data through charts and graphs.

While small-business customer scenarios focus on the basics, midsize- and enterprise-company scenarios revolve around more sophisticated capabilities.


Essential Vista-Spawned
Third-Party Gear and Goodies

Most ISVs, IHVs and OEMs have a pretty good idea by now what kinds of devices and solutions they'll bring out to leverage new capabilities in Windows Vista. Many such efforts remain deep in development labs and haven't been heavily marketed yet. But here are examples of the kinds of solutions that Microsoft expects will be available for resale by solution providers:

Data Backup and Security

  • Applications that use Windows Security Center to manage user subscriptions
  • Anti-virus and firewall solutions
  • External backup devices, such as USB flash drives, for storing complete system images

Mobility and Collaboration

  • Applications that build on Windows Communication Foundation for seamless and more secure communications
  • Applications based on the Windows peer-to-peer application platform (MeetingSpace)
  • Wireless network hardware for seamless network connection
  • Hybrid hard drives that support Windows ReadyDrive
  • Mobile PCs that include a secondary display for Windows SideShow
  • Form factors taking advantage of advances in Tablet PC and touch-screen capabilities
  • Integrated 3G cards

-- S.B.

In previous releases, Microsoft emphasized improving ROI or cutting TCO. The company's first large-company scenario for Vista promotes similar benefits, but this time in acronym-free verbiage ("Optimize Your Desktop Infrastructure"). Highlights include extending Group Policy to cover power settings, USB devices and wireless network policies; user-account control prompts requiring administrative credentials to install software or drivers; and self-tuning and self-diagnostics to reduce support incidents.

While the goal for small businesses is enabling mobility, a second larger-company scenario emphasizes improving the experience of already-mobile employees. Hard-drive encryption will help keep company data safe if laptop computers are lost or stolen. Wireless network configuration is simplified, while data synchronization and mobile collaboration are emphasized for this audience.

A Good Old-Fashioned Feature List

Microsoft is laboring to evolve from its traditional feature-list style of marketing to more benefits-oriented messaging. But the company wants partners to know which new features in Windows Vista are best for small businesses. They include:

  • Windows Defender
  • User Account Protection
  • Complete PC Backup and File Backup Wizard
  • Windows ShadowCopy
  • Remote Desktop Connection
  • Windows SideShow
  • Instant Search

The security scenario is combined with compliance for larger companies, acknowledging the increasing regulatory requirements they face. According to Microsoft, an enhanced EventLogger using XML will allow auditing of all modifications to files and systems.

Finally, search capabilities are more central to Microsoft's Vista marketing plans for enterprise and midsize companies. That capability is folded into the Sales and Marketing customer scenario for small businesses, but for enterprises, "Find and Use Information" serves as a stand-alone scenario.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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