One of messages that has come from the recent Microsoft Partner Conference is that the world is changing for Microsoft and resellers (as if you didn’t know!). The article “Microsoft rubs Web 2.0 noses in SharePoint cash pile” shows how Microsoft believes the world is changing and how its resellers should also.

“Microsoft’s business applications chief Stephen Elop on Monday told Microsoft’s overwhelmingly desktop-and-server-oriented partner army that nine out of 10 of their customers want to transition a portion of their IT to the cloud.”

Which I believe is true, though perhaps not to that extent now but it many eventually reach that level. Interestingly,

“Elop didn’t reveal the source of the data behind his claim, but the message was blunt.

“My business is changing. Your business must change as well,” Elop told Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.”

So the message appears clear from Microsoft that traditional server and desktop hardware is going to be a declining source of opportunity for all. You would also have to agree that the message is very similar from Google who have perhaps been at this cloud computing thing longer than Microsoft.

To ignore two of the largest players in the market saying that online is the place to be would surely be folly for anyone providing technology solutions. Personally, I agree with this premise in principal but I believe it still must be tempered by some ‘non-sales’ reality here but the end result is that change is certainly upon us. Nothing could perhaps illustrate that better than a recent example of my own.

I was called in by a prospect who were interested in Windows SharePoint v3 as means to improve their collaboration and productivity. They had just recently purchased a new server running SBS 2003 (their existing IT people seemed uncomfortable with the move to SBS 2008 which, as an aside, I have noticed to be quite common), so they already have their infrastructure in place. Now, how do they go about implementing Windows SharePoint v3?

Option 1 – On the existing infrastructure

They need to install Windows SharePoint v3 on their SBS 2003 server which requires a bit of customizing since it is SBS. They’d probably also find that the SBS box is already pretty well loaded (being SBS 2003 it has a 4GB RAM limit) so maybe installing SharePoint v3 on SBS is not a good idea. Maybe then they could purchase an additional server, which means more hardware and Windows Server licenses even before the installation commences.

You can see how hard this is becoming can’t you.

Option 2 – Hosted

While at their offices I set up a 30 day free trial of hosted SharePoint with a single login. They can immediately start using the product to get a feel. They have remote access, don’t have to worry about additional servers, software etc. After 30 days they can simply convert that trial into a per monthly cost with an unlimited amount of users.

How easy was that?

Sure there are issues around both services and advantages and disadvantages but look at it from the customer’s perspective. Which involves less pain? If they like SharePoint and want to start using it in their business which is going to give them a result faster? The winner is Option 2 – Hosted.

This online concept also applies to other applications like email and even desktop applications such as word processors and spreadsheets. In the end I think we have finally crossed the threshold where technology is simply part of our day, like electricity or the car. It has become so ingrained in our society that the less we have to think about it the better. Clearly, things will not change overnight but they are changing and those who fail to make the transition will get left behind. If the business model and focus of players like Microsoft is changing then resellers need to start making similar adjustments. Now is the time to start making those adjustments in your own time rather than having little option or opportunity down the track.

Like it or not, change is here.

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