Microsoft copies Google, Salesforce, and Red Hat in new partner initiative

Microsoft is copying its rivals in a new service, but is it also outflanking its partners?

If you attended Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference 2008, you can be excused for thinking you showed up at the partner event for Red Hat, Google, or Salesforce.

After all, Microsoft's new partner initiatives rely heavily on concepts devised and delivered by these companies:

Tech watchers will see lots of familiar concepts in software behemoth Microsoft's revamped go-to-market strategy....[Microsoft] proclaimed its newfound focus on delivering software and services to customers via "the cloud," using a subscription-based model popularized by companies like Red Hat, Websense and Salesforce.com.

Microsoft is smart: Why reinvent the business model wheel when others have pioneered successful ways to deliver software value? Of course, Microsoft has never been the most innovative of companies - it has become the market behemoth that it is by out-executing its competitors, not by out-thinking them.

But this may be one area in which Microsoft needs to think a bit more. As The Motley Fool notes,

Although partners will get a 12% cut of the first year's subscription, and 6% thereafter, they will now be competing head-to-head against Microsoft for delivering value-added services. This marks a dramatic departure from the way Microsoft has worked with partners in the past. Mr. Softy formerly provided direct support and services only to the largest enterprise clients, while channel partners handled the rest.

By tangling with its partners in accounts of all sizes, Microsoft may have finally proved to be too big for its own good. Since it got into the applications business, it has had a competitive relationship with its software partners. But now it will also be competing with its channel delivery partners.

Microsoft is a smart company, and has obviously thought about these issues. I still wonder if the company will find that its partners don't like having to compete with their old friend.

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