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M$ ponders how to annihilate Linux

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THE THEME OF THE SALES keynotes at the MS WWPC was on how to sell: sell against Linux and sell to small businesses (SB).

The small business side had a new announcement, the Linux side was really light on ideas. There was also the usual sales cheerleading, but last time I talked about it, it was so sugary, it put three diabetic readers into a coma, about par for the course at a marketing conference.

Lets start with the good: the SB sector, something that has been largely ignored by larger vendors. There may be more money per account in a Fortune 500 business, but there are many more SB accounts. Part of the push today was to tap those accounts.

To do so, MS announced the Small Business Specialist, which is about what it sounds like. You need to get some training for the market, pass two technical tests and, from what I gathered at the keynote, you get a shirt proclaiming the achievement. Well, maybe you don't get a shirt, but they do exist. Meanwhile, the world gets people aimed at an underserved niche.

They also announced a bunch of mid-market initiatives, the one that stuck out is a new licensing model for the sector. While that is nothing new, they threw out the previous three models and replaced them with a single one called Open Value. You can spread payments over three years and, they said, there is a perpetual as well as rent-to-not-own model. The really great thing is they cut the contract down from 35 pages to five. And said they are vastly decreasing the time it takes to order the software.

One thing they kept talking about was reducing cost, and reducing the initial cost. Maybe I am reading to much into it, but I distinctly heard Orlando Ayala say, "We are too expensive," several times. With that, they went into a talk about MS financing, and from now to the end of September, they will finance you for 101%, IE you finance through MS and you get a 1% kickback.

This all brings us to value, and something I didn't know or, at least, didn't realize. When talking about Linux, Kevin Johnson kept referring to the Get The Facts web site. They kept talking about how using the site and getting people, "engaged around Get The Facts". This would not bother me if they didn't keep referring to several thoroughly debunked, and mostly MS-funded studies. I was hoping for a real reason not to go for Linux, but nothing factual was presented, just spin. Color me stupid for expecting reality, but I didn't know how they used that site.

They did present a few interesting numbers though. First is a couple of winback case studies, with National Enterprise Systems and Independence Air named as now ex-Linux users. They also quoted some IDC numbers about shipments of Linux on x86 hardware, they showed MS at about 65% of the market in 2000 moving to about 75% in 2004. At the same time Linux went from about 10 to 15%. The take-home message was that partners can win against Linux, and it's growth is not at MS's expense. Without fine print, I can't go any deeper than that, but I am sure someone will it that after reading this.

Overall, for a pump-up, the resellers conference it was well done. The right things were said at the right times, and the sticky issues were glossed over. The only thing lacking was a coherent anti-Linux strategy. Maybe next year. µ


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