Microsoft: A reporter’s notebook

Last week, I described the scene at the recentl Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Minnesota. This week, I’ll let you in on what took place on day two in the Twin Cities.

It was highlighted by Orlando Ayala’s keynote presentation. Ayala is a hoot for an executive. Last year he had his

brother on and they did a funny skit involving model airplanes.

The agenda had an early start of 7:40 AM central time. But 7:40 AM on a Saturday came and went and there was no Ayala or anyone else on stage.The following is an edited timeline.

7:42 AM: New trend in conference ware: The briefcase stroller. Are we becoming a lazy society or what?

7:43 AM: The large video screen starts displaying factoids: AMD has won best in show awards at back-to-back Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conferences. HP PartnerOne operates in 160 countries. Every Citrix sale is a Microsoft sale. How is every Citrix sale a Microsoft sale? The video screen answers me: About 98 per cent of Citrix environments are on Windows platforms. Weird.

7:45 AM: New stat: Every time you go to sleep Computer Associates estimates that at least eight new viruses attack your PC. Why am I not worried about this? I guess it is because the anti-virus software available from a bevy of developers actually works. I guess Ayala likes a Blues Brothers style entrance, where the band plays and plays and the crowd sits and sits. But, unlike for “”Joliet”” Jake and Elwood Blues, the audience here isn’t in a frenzy.

7:48 AM: Did you know there are 93 individual pieces of spyware on average on everyday PCs. Wow! The spies infiltrating my PC would be bored to death. Alison Watson, Microsoft channel czar, makes a special appearance walking between the rows of people shaking hands, greeting partners and having a couple of laughs with colleagues.

7:54 AM: How appropriate that the band on stage sings Waiting On You. The crowd is still waiting on Ayala. About 14 minutes have passed and he has not graced us with his presence. I wonder what Watson, his boss thinks, of his tardiness?

7:56 AM: Fujitsu must have sponsored day two at the show because their factoids are coming in rapid succession. Oh, wait, here is one on HP: On the basis of channel revenues HP would be number 21 on the Fortune 500 list. I have never met a company so embarrassed by taking business direct than HP. Look at IBM: It takes business direct and doesn’t bother announcing it. It is a fact of life for VARs. They have grown to accept it. Maybe HP should as well.

7:57 AM: I wonder if former U.S. first lady LadyBird Johnson will sue Fujitsu for using her husband’s name in the most idiotic factoid at the conference. Fujitsu asked who was the U.S. president when they first released COBOL computing? Who cares?

8:00 AM: After a good 20 minutes the hall darkens and the video wall starts with two new band members: A bongo drummer and another artist playing some kind of Arabian guitar.

8:03 AM: Watson, who is standing in the crowd, welcomes the audience. Pulling a Phil Donahue, she does a live interview with a solution provider in New Delhi, India. He said he wanted to hear Hooty and the Blowfish, but at least he has grown his business 300 per cent and he is coming to the conference next year in Boston.

8:05 AM: “GOOD MORNING MINNESOTA!” is shouted at the top of Kevin Johnson’s lungs. Johnson is a group vice-president at Microsoft. He thanks everyone for attending on a Saturday. That was smart. Then he pokes fun at IBM’s Partnerworld conference because several of its executives skipped this year’s show.

8:07 AM: Johnson runs a funny video on how Microsoft makes sure its executives get to the conference on time. Using a Microsoft GPS system he gives executives who are AWOL an electric shock. One of the people he stuns is Steve Ballmer. This was very funny stuff. You have to give Microsoft credit here. They have poked fun at themselves in these videos for years. You don’t see IBM and Oracle doing the same. They should learn to not take themselves too seriously.

8:10 AM: After the video, Johnson says Microsoft competes to win against Linux. Today, the video screen displays captions for the hearing impaired. The captionist who got this assignment will probably think twice before taking on this job again. The captionist spells Linux as “Lynn Knox.”

8:11 AM: Back to Johnson. He cites 45 independent analyst reports that have stated Windows offers a lower cost of ownership than Linux. I do not know if there are 45 out there, but there are several that I have seen in the past year. Microsoft has done well in its full court press on Linux.

8:18 AM: Johnson talks about two win backs for Windows over Linux. One is from Verizon and the other is from Independence Air. Now the captionist is spelling Linux “Lennox.” I wonder if the captionist has a Lennox air conditioning unit. You would need one in this heat.

8:20 AM: Finally Ayala, the COO of MBS at Microsoft hits the stage. He along with Steve Guggenheim, the small business manager at Microsoft, announce the small business specialist competency.

8:34 AM: Ayala announces enhancements to Microsoft Partner Program. The company will be spending a whopping US$2 billion in training and marketing. Microsoft wants its partner base to reach the 40 million customers out there who need technology.

8:40 AM: Watson is back stage with John Lauer, a Microsoft vice-president who says about US$321 billion is spent on IT in the mid-market.

8:43 AM: Back to the stage with Ayala and Johnson. Now it is time for an Ayala video. It is a satire of the TV show Extreme Makeover: the Home Edition. The video rolls with Watson furniture, which looks like a shack on Route 66. The company needs to upgrade because it is still using 5.25-inch floppy disks. Watson furniture does not have e-mail and an IT team begin to rip out network cable and take a sledge hammer to an old monitor. A marching band comes in with a bona fide Microsoft Certified Partner. They turn a dumpy looking room into a white server room running Windows Server System equipped with disco ball.

8:55 AM: Ayala says Watson furniture is not a fictional customer.

9:05 AM: Simon Witts, the former president of Microsoft Canada, goes on stage. Witts has traveled the world this year — 20 countries.

9:13 AM: The poor captionist is over his or her head, spelling Active Directory as Alaska Directory.

9:16 AM: Captionist strikes again: Witts says work place; captionist types “Work Police.”

9:20 AM: Witts says MBS will work on any distributed enterprise environment, except for certain billion dollar systems.

9:25 AM: Rick Devenuti, a senior vice-president at Microsoft gets stuck on his presentation. There is a long pause as Devenuti’s slide is not up. Johnson comes in to help. When he gets on track he says security on the desktop is still a big opportunity and that Microsoft has to be an incubator for customers and partners.

9:35 AM: Ayala, who is stealing the show, admits the rehearsal the night before looked bad.

9:45 AM: Backstage with Watson and another interview. She would do well as an ESPN sideline reporter, but would probably have to take a pay cut.

9:47 AM: Ayala talks about the 40 million potential customers again and asked Witts how many of them would be in the enterprise. A stunned Witts says 10,000 or so. His answer seems to surprise Ayala and both burst into laughter.

10:00 AM: Well, the crowd was waiting for this moment; Ayala’s big video. And it does not disappoint. The video was on the next killer app and Ayala invented a head cam with web site

10:04 AM: Ayala arrives on stage wearing head cam. Witts gives him a screwdriver and says go and fix it. Again, the video and Ayala are very funny. You don’t mind devoting a Saturday, when these executives, who have serious challenges and mandates, try to entertain you this way.

10:16 AM: Watson closes off session to the band.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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