Channel gears up for Windows 7 push

Channel gears up for Windows 7 push

Microsoft, distributors and partners are pitching in to ensure the market is ready for Windows 7.

Distribution manager Heather Gordon says the software giant’s local business is partnering to put on 125 hours of nationwide technical and sales training, and certification, on the new operating system, set for commercial launch on 22 October, along with other pipeline technologies.

Retail sales staff will get in-depth Windows 7 training from Microsoft, while the operating system is a one of the key focuses in the second of the Explosion training series, offered this month and next by Microsoft, Express Data and Ace Training. This series provides Level 100 sales training, level 200 technical training and certification bootcamps, beginning in Auckland this month and ending in early December in Christchurch.

Learning partner Auldhouse will provide a course on installing, configuring and deploying Windows 7 next month in Wellington, with further courses planned for Auckland and Christchurch. Distributor Ingram Micro joined Microsoft in hosting a three-city roadshow this month, with more than 300 resellers having registered, focusing on Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. More than 200 attended in Auckland.

Microsoft will also hold a “New Efficiency”, three-city event series on Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010 later this month and early next month, pitched at enterprise-level IT decision makers.

Microsoft’s Windows business group manager Ben Green says Microsoft has been educating the local channel since the international Professional Developers Conference last November.

He says Microsoft initially ran one-on-one training with larger New Zealand partners, but these companies have for the past three to five months been running their own customer briefings. Among the companies to have run such sessions are Maclean Computing, Axon, Kinetics and Gen-i, and Microsoft has supported these events with speakers and a pack which includes marketing resources and giveaways.

Green says there are already more than 50,000 local users of Windows 7, prior to its general availability on 22 October. However, he says it is hard to forecast consumer adoption because most will buy the OS with a new PC rather than as a boxed product; but Windows 7 will run on more existing PCs than Vista did.

He wouldn’t give specific numbers on the adoption rate it hopes to achieve for the OS in the commercial space, but says he would love to achieve the same or a greater level of adoption as Vista.

“We want to be conservative and not over-promise, but every indication I’ve seen indicates there’s pent up demand. We all need a shot in the arm because the market has been a bit flat and a big shift like this really means opportunity.”

The roadshows for retail salespeople ran in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland this month, and Microsoft staff were joined by hardware partners Acer, Toshiba, HP and Sony. “It’s a chance to connect directly with the retail salespeople that will be responsible for having a conversation with the public about Windows 7, and enable them to really have a chance to experience Windows 7 and have a much more rich conversation,” says Green. “When we launched Vista we knew people didn’t always get the clarity we would like to achieve with Windows 7.”

Microsoft will also provide online training through its Expert Zone.

Gordon says the first Explosion training series, held about a year ago, focused on Sharepoint and CRM, and next year it could centre around Office and Sharepoint.

Ace Training managing director Tony Skelton says it wants to see as many people certified in Windows 7 as possible.

“We’re trying to speed up the certification process so that they’re up and running quicker than the normal process. We’ve cherry picked the salient points.”

Skelton says such certification gives customers confidence that their integrators are qualified in the product they’re trying to sell.

Gordon says a similar collaborative training venture was held last June between Microsoft, Auldhouse and Ingram Micro on Small Business Server and Essential Business Server.

Both Auldhouse and Ace Training exhibited in the marketplace at last month’s Tech Ed conference, where Windows 7 was a central topic.

Retailers get behind new OS

PB Technologies and Dick Smith Electronics are among retailers celebrating the commercial release of Windows 7.

PB Tech general manager Darren Smith says his company will hold VIP nights for customers shortly after the launch, and will fill its sites with Windows 7 balloons and customer demonstrations on the day.

“The idea is to give people a feel for what’s coming next. This time there’s a lot more excitement than there was with the last launch [of Vista].”

Smith adds Microsoft will help present on the VIP nights. He says some Microsoft hardware partners are planning activity “to add some hype”, for example HP may do “street walking” outside its Queen St store to bring people in.

PB Technologies will pre-install Windows 7 XP mode on its business machines.

Dick Smith Electronics country manager James Cunnold says it will promote the operating system in the lead up to the launch, and on the day itself, however he wouldn’t divulge details, citing commercial sensitivity.

Cunnold expects a boost in sales of new PCs and the boxed products as a result of the launch. “Every time Microsoft comes out with a new operating system we certainly see a huge take-up of computer sales.

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