Last week I attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference in Houston, TX, and I thought I'd wrap up some of my thoughts and observations:
- Once again, Microsoft CRM was a featured product at the conference! Microsoft sells thousands of products, but CRM gets plenty of attention. During the opening keynote on Tuesday, there was just one product demo: Microsoft CRM (conducted by Brad Wilson).
- Another very hot product is Sharepoint. Chris Capossela said that Sharepoint is a billion dollar business by itself, which is very impressive. All of the Dynamics products combined (CRM, GP, NAV, AX, SL) just went over a billion dollars collectively in the past few years.
- The partner conference is absolutely massive in size, with around 15,000 people in attendance. The keynote sessions had to be held in the Toyota Center, which is the professional basketball court and home of the Houston Rockets.
- Microsoft is ABSOLUTELY focused on the Software + Services opportunity. Every keynote session talked about cloud services and their importance for Microsoft. In the past, the tone of the S+S topic was more like "well, as a partner you should consider this because some customers want it" while this year the tone was "this is an unstoppable train so you better prepare yourself to get onboard quickly". To that end, Microsoft announced some new services/pricing for hosted versions of Exchange, Sharepoint and Office Communicator. And of course don't forget that Microsoft officially launched the hosted version of Microsoft CRM back in April.
- During the Steve Ballmer keynote, he dropped a new (but expected) little tidbit. Microsoft will launching a platform as a service, details are still TBD but this is a very exciting opportunity for both customers and partners.
"So what is the future? The future is about having a platform in the cloud, just as we have an operating system for the client, for the server, for devices. We will be launching a platform for the Internet cloud that lets you write programs and have them deployed and managed, that does computation and storage, and management, directly out in the Internet. We're not getting rid of servers. We're extending the basic programming model and management model that we know today from Windows and Windows Server to the cloud. Software development approaches will need to change. People will want to write applications that actually span this whole world. And so we're driving .NET, and .NET through Silverlight, and JScript to support rich application development across the cloud, the devices, the servers, and, of course, the PC client.
Deployment, the world will insist on a model that I call “Click to Run.” That's kind of the way Web sites today work, or HTML works, you click something and it runs. You don't click, hit install, you don't click and configure, you click to run. And the model in the Software Plus Services world will be a model of Click to Run, that will take cost and complexity not only out of enterprise IT I'm sorry, not only out of cloud IT, but also out of enterprise IT."
- During the Dynamics keynote, I saw a new tool that automatically extracts data from Quickbooks into Microsoft Dynamics GP. It looked pretty impressive, and I am sure it will be a great help for GP partners.
- I learned some new numbers and statistics about Microsoft CRM:
- There are now 14,000 customers and 775,000 users worldwide
- Microsoft added 4,000 customers and 225,000 users in FY08
- There are 500 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online customers
- Our company Sonoma Partners got some props as a finalist for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner of the Year finalist. We received a fancy trophy during the CRM general session, and our name was sprinkled throughout various conference locations such as the program and other signage.
- Microsoft announced some forthcoming solution accelerators that they will release for Microsoft CRM. The product team provided a demo of some of these solutions, and they are very exciting! Some of the highlights:
- Customer service portal: allows your customers to login, update contact information, create/view cases, search the KB and schedule a service.
- Event management: allows you to setup a website where customers can register for a marketing event. These registrations are automatically created in Microsoft CRM as campaign responses.
- Updated BI analytics tool: pre-built data cubes and reports for Microsoft CRM
- As a host city, Houston was acceptable but not great. As expected, Houston in July is HOT. Fortunately, our hotel was adjacent to the convention center connected via a skybridge so you could stay indoors in the cool if you wanted to. On the downside, I wasn't in love with George R. Brown convention center. It was very spreadout and confusing, but I guess that's difficult to avoid for a conference of that size.