Toronto — Allison Watson, vice-president of partner sales and marketing group for Microsoft, kicked off the worldwide partner conference here by increasing the company’s channel commitment to US$1.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion

last year.

Of that, $100 million will go toward independent software vendors (ISV) to support products such as Windows Server 2003, the Microsoft Office System and Visual Studio .Net. This investment also comes while the company chief, Steve Ballmer is tightening Microsoft’s belt on spending, Watson said.

The ISV channel investment will include partner programs such as the ISV Royalty Program, the ISV Buddy Program, and Channel Builder along with portals such as ISV Community on MSDN and Windows Error Reporting for ISVs. The company will also introduce event-driven opportunities such as ISV Community Days and the ISV Show.

The ISV Royalty Program has been expanded to include more product solutions for academic customers and lower initial commitment for resellers. Also on the table for smaller ISVs is the new Buddy Program. This program is targeted at the more than 10,000 ISVs that are two to 10 person shops. Sanjay Parthasarathy, corporate vice-president of developer and platform evangelism at Microsoft, said these companies currently get “”next to nothing”” in terms of technical help. “”With the Buddy Program, Microsoft is matching employees with ISVs.

If ISVs are in any trouble they can call their Microsoft buddy for development help. More than 1,000 employees have signed up for this program, including company CEO Ballmer.””

The Channel Builder program combines online tools and offline events for ISVs to share information and collaborate with each other. “”The concept of Channel Builder frankly came out of a need of connecting ISVs across markets. For example, Channel Builder would help Canadian ISVs to market to Americans,”” Watson said. As an extension of MSDN Web site, the ISV Community on MSDN will contain new resources for developing applications on the Microsoft platform that are vertically specific.

Windows Error Reporting for ISVs registers applications with Microsoft that can be fixed or updated in real-time for partners. ISV Community Days is a quarterly seminar program for ISVs that provide product road maps.

Finally, the ISV Show will be an ongoing series of Web casts to heighten visibility for new technologies, architectures, trends and opportunities for ISVs. Watson told the partners in her keynote address, which was estimated at 5,500 (750 of which are Canadian), that partners should strike while the iron is hot. She believes that 2003 marked a turning point in the IT industry as there was about a five per cent technology spending increase, which is the first time in three years that IT budgets have spiked instead of declined.

“”It’s about velocity. It is about speed to market, speed to value and the speed of money changing hands. We have to achieve all this today,”” she said. Beyond the formalized ISV programs, Microsoft is also building ISV ROI tools, which help partners marry applications with customer situations. “”These people usually come from a technical background and typically do not have the business skills,”” Watson said in a follow up interview.

Last year Microsoft’s goal of enrolling 10,000 ISVs into its Empower ISVs program was achieved, she said. As of last week the program had signed up 10,500 ISVs. Watson said there are more than 65,000 ISVs worldwide.

Lora Gernon, manger of partner sales and marketing at Microsoft Canada said the Canadian subsidiary’s goal in this program was 400 and the team reached a total of 461.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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