Microsoft looks to share security gains

Partners who sell the software giant's security products can get a 20 percent cut of the license sales.

Looking to kick-start its security software business, Microsoft will offer resellers a 20 percent cut of its license sales in addition to the usual reseller margin.

The incentive is part of a new "Microsoft Security Software Advisor Program" that the software giant plans to announce Wednesday at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston. Microsoft has a similar program for resellers of its software for customer relationship management, Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

"Our goal is to build the industry's leading security partner ecosystem and to ensure that our customers have the best experience with our Forefront security products," said Steve Brown, the director of product management in the security, access and solutions division at Microsoft. "This is a fairly unique program that we're offering."

In addition to offering partners an extra chunk of cash, Microsoft has set aside $15 million for marketing with partners as well as partner training and support, Brown said. The money is set to be spent over the next 12 months, he said.

Security software, just like CRM applications, is a relatively new market for Microsoft. The vast majority of the company's sales come through third parties, making it crucial to encourage partners to go out and sell.

Microsoft last month announced Forefront, a single brand that encompasses updated and upcoming security products aimed at businesses. The moves are part of Microsoft's attempt to expand its business and tap new revenue sources. Last year, security software sales hit $12 billion, according to research firm IDC.

Part of the Forefront products are the new Microsoft Client Protection, now in development, and updates of Antigen for Exchange and Antigen for SharePoint, which will also carry the Forefront tag. Antigen for Instant Messaging and the ISA Server firewall and Web caching software are also in the Forefront group, Microsoft has said.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, in a speech at the partner event on Tuesday, pointed to security as one of the key new business opportunities that Microsoft is focused on.

The new Security Software Advisor Program is available to members of Microsoft's partner program who are part of the security specialty or qualify for it. Additionally, partners of Sybari Software, which was acquired by Microsoft, and top-tier members of competitor programs qualify, Brown said. About 3,100 companies qualify, he said.

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