Microsoft conference contingent caught up in New Orleans shooting

Microsoft conference contingent caught up in New Orleans shooting

Partners who attended Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference, held this year in New Orleans, were positive about the event despite some being in close proximity to a shooting after a pre-conference dinner.

Partner Group manager Nick Fletcher says a group of Microsoft staff and partners was in the city’s French quarter the night before the event began, and heard gunshots as they walked past a bar on the opposite side of the street shortly before midnight.

“People took evasive action as best they could,” says Fletcher, adding some of the group was able to take shelter in another bar which was closed but opened its doors to them. They remained in the bar until police arrived and the situation had calmed, Fletcher says.

Datasouth's general manager Craig Gerken says he was one of the partners who sheltered in the bar.

"I was one of the ones who got pulled into a pub right outside it. The barman let us in. We weren't among the ones left ouside on the street.

"We'd been warned before we went that we have to be a bit cautious but I'd heard that the French quarter was pretty safe."

Provoke Solutions chief technology officer Brendon Ford says he was on the same street when the incident occurred, saying “there was a bit of ruckus”.

“I’ve travelled through different parts of the world and people need to be aware of their personal safety,” he says. However, Ford says the incident shouldn’t take the shine off the event, and believes New Orleans needs to host more large conferences. “I think New Orleans was a great place to go for the conference,” he says.

Simpl Group’s general manager of global services, Jodi Mitchell, says she was one of the partners which split from the larger group which had attended the dinner, so didn’t experience the shooting. However, she heard about it the following day, and was told it occurred at a hip hop bar.

Kinetics Group managing director Andrew Hunt says he “just missed” the shooting because he was on his way back the hotel, but says the police presence afterwards was “phenomenal”. “I understand our partners were caught in the middle and it was really scary”.

Hunt and Gerken say the incident happened near the city’s famous Bourbon Street.

Among three shootings reported on local news site in the weekend before the conference was that of a 16 year old about three blocks from that street, at about 11.30PM on the Sunday night US time. A comment posted below the report, by “pigcandy”, said “An open letter to Microsoft visitors to our lovely city. We appreciate your visiting but please be careful. If you dont [sic] already know, we have a major crime crisis here.” Last November, Reuters reported New Orleans had the highest crime rate of any US city in 2007. Slightly more than 30 New Zealand Microsoft partners attended the conference, along with about seven staff.

Those spoken to by Reseller News were positive about the opportunities for strategic meetings, and to hear the keynote address and changes to Microsoft’s partner programme.

Ford was encouraged by the direction taken by Microsoft with the new Partner Network, which will align partners based on competencies rather than tiers.

“I like the fact Microsoft have considered the feedback about the existing programme and represented themselves with more clarity. It might give us the opportunity to talk to partners we haven’t talked to because we’ll be a lot more clear about where their expertise lies.”

Fletcher says some partners may have their competencies changed straight away based on their area of specialisation, while other partners will be assessed as their programme renewal occurs from October onwards.

Microsoft plans activity locally to tell partners what to expect from the changes, says Fletcher.

Kinetics Group’s Hunt says he has flagged with Microsoft his concern that the new programme logo may not allow customers less familiar with the IT landscape to distinguish which are Gold partners.

Mitchell says Simpl followed the healthcare stream at the conference, and was invited to present on the development of its Health Connection Engine for an electronic prescription system on behalf of Fred Health in Australia.

Datasouth's Gerken says it was particularly beneficial to meet with business divison president Steven Elop as part of Microsoft's partner advisory council, and to hear about the direction the vendor is taking on Office 2010, unified communications and cloud computing.

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