Microsoft channel partners need to urgently redefine and evolve their businesses so that they can resell the company's cloud computing products, according to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner.
Just as Microsoft has embarked on a sometimes painful reinvention, its partners need to follow suit, because the alternative is to miss a massive opportunity in cloud computing, a vehement Turner said Monday at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference.
"We are making progress on this transformation, really good progress," he told about 16,000 attendees who packed the Verizon Center stadium in Washington, D.C., Monday.
What worked in the past for Microsoft and its partners won't cut it in the "mobile first, cloud first" world, he said.
Turner rattled off statistics to support his claim that Microsoft's cloud services, like Office 365, Azure and Dynamics CRM Online, are growing robustly, but said the work is far from over.
"We still have a lot of work to do but we have a lot to be proud of," he said.
He cited "hard decisions" Microsoft has made recently, such as offering its flagship Windows OS free to hardware partners making devices with screen sizes of 9 inches and smaller, and porting its Office apps to iOS.
"We will do what is necessary to win in the marketplace," Turner said.
Selling on-premises software was "good for you and us for a long time" but the future lies in the cloud and mobility, and Microsoft plans to go in that direction "with our partner community intact," he said.
Right now, there aren't enough partners on board. Microsoft has more than 600,000 partners worldwide, but only 53,000 are reselling cloud services.
"We don't have enough partner capacity anywhere in the world for cloud," Turner said.
While that number is up more than 100 percent from last year, Turner said he wants to bring it to about 150,000 in the next 12 months.
"You need to get on this train. This market is being made now," he said. "This is a huge opportunity for you."
The cloud business offers higher revenue and profits than the on-premises software business, he said.
In addition to heavily promoting Office 365, Azure and Dynamics CRM Online, Turner also pushed Windows, saying the next major rev of the OS will be a hit, especially for businesses.
"This will be a great, world-class enterprise OS when it comes out, with game-changing functionality for enterprises," he said, without providing more details about the product's features or its expected release date.
Microsoft is pushing ahead with its vision of having a single Windows API (application programming interface) for all types of devices, from small smartphones to massive displays, so that developers can write applications once, he said.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.