Microsoft Outlook.com: what’s in a name for channel and alliance partners?

Note: This post is from one of our featured guest bloggers, Gianluca Marcellino, who regularly writes in his own blog Business Notes about alliances related topics


 
On 31st July, Microsoft launched a public preview of “Outlook.com”, a refreshed free web email client for individual users. Initial comments such as the Wall Street Journal’s, Mashable’s and Mary Jo Foley’s and Ed Bott’s on ZDNet capture features – most notably social network integration – and initial reactions.

I have liked using Outlook.com for a few days, and I look forward to how it will help people and organizations do messaging and social networking on multiple devices and channels.

What about the deep and wide ecosystem of Microsoft partners, channel and alliances? What about the corresponding and overlapping ecosystems of other consumer and enterprise platform vendors?

From an alliances and channel perspective, I believe the most notable feature of this service is its name itself! I believe the choice of calling it “outlook.com” is even more significant in how Microsoft envisages its partner ecosystem in the cloud and in consumerized IT than the choice of manufacturing its own Surface tablet computers has been weeks ago.

Since 1997, almost as early as “HoTMaIL” was born as a web mail service, “Outlook” has been Microsoft’s flagship email client software, catering for large organizations as well as individuals. It has been a packaged software product, often literally so: a physical package containing physical media. In most individual user and many small business scenarios, Outlook has been installed on physical devices by Original Equipment Manufacturers or Value Added Resellers, or by users themselves who then resorted to VARs for help, even as Microsoft has provided more and more online support services to these users and larger enterprise customers over time. Perhaps more importantly, even with the significant evolution of Office365, Outlook’s business model has by and large been based around one-time, perpetual license fees, and upgrade fees or recurring maintenance fees.

Now the same name, with the natural “.com” suffix, indicates a fully web-based service – a cloud service, if you will. Its business model is “free” as in most such services; arguably somehow freer from advertising than Hotmail and many others. Crucially for partners, its services and support model is mostly taken up by the platform vendor itself, with partners pushed up towards architecture design and integration – probably higher-value, and yet relevant for a smaller, more advanced market.

What’s in a name, then? What does the choice of “Outlook.com” mean for Microsoft and its customers, for Microsoft’s partners, and for the partners of any platform vendor?

I think this name means that Microsoft, one of the longest-term leaders in license-based, hardware-installed software for individuals and organizations, is now fully comfortable that the best and most advanced value for them is in a converged blend of on-premises software and cloud-based services, and that advanced value blend is here today.

Now, customers will care about the value much more than about the model. Partners, on the other hand, have been racing to evolve their business model to a new ICT world where cloud services were still a distant possibility as little as four years ago, and a minor component a couple of years ago, if with a great future. We, the partners, now know that future is today, and it’s even more pervasive than “collaboration” or “CRM”. It’s as pervasive as “Outlook”.

Let’s figure out our new business models. Let’s do that on our own, in partnership with each other, and in new partnership models with platform vendors, where the platforms now fully combine software-plus-services, cloud-and-on-premises.


 

Gianluca Marcellino has managed ICT alliance for Accenture since 1997, full time since September 2002, in Italy and other EMEA countries. Gianluca drives virtual teams that combine global best practices and resources with local business insight and presence. His focus is on identifying new ways for alliance partners to bring value to each other and their joint clients, then facilitating collaboration during value delivery. Gianluca is a baby boomer, with ethics from the generation before, learning to live among digital natives, thriving while bridging cultures. All opinions Gianluca expresses online are his personal opinions.


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