illustration cloud PC

What is a Cloud PC anyway, and what does it mean for Microsoft Partners?

This year’s Microsoft Inspire was a busy one. If you missed it, we rounded up the highlights to help you make sense of it all. Perhaps the most significant announcement to come from Inspire was Windows 365; Microsoft’s simplified cloud PC solution that echoes a new-found commitment to Windows development and innovation in the world of hybrid work. As such, we think Windows 365 warrants its own explainer piece for tech heads and Microsoft Partners who want to know more about the opportunities it brings to the table.

 

Windows in a hybrid world

When offices around the world were forced to close and employees suddenly found themselves working from home (including here at Fifty Five and Five), Windows 10 (and all operating systems for that matter) became a vital tool for all those needing to connect to with colleagues. The ongoing global chip shortage left many people to “make do and mend”, bringing their old PCs and tablets out of retirement and into a new era of remote working. So, what could Microsoft do to make sure people using Windows remained productive?

 

Enter: the cloud. Come on… did you expect anything else from the company that just announced ridiculous Azure growth? Windows 365 allows users to stream the full Windows desktop—including apps, data and personal settings—to almost any device. That means non-Windows devices like iPads, Android devices, Macs and Chromebooks can access the full Windows experience. In a world where Paul from Accounts needs to access SAGE from his son’s school-provided Chromebook (an unlikely scenario, but that’s not the point!), then he can certainly achieve that with Windows 365.

 

Whilst the tech is certainly nothing new (*cough* Citrix Workspace *cough*), Microsoft’s customers likely value remote desktop solutions as indispensable for employees now spending more time at home than in the office – perhaps evidenced by the fact that demand for Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) exploded just as the pandemic hit. And that’s no surprise; virtual environments are easier to manage, more secure, and workplaces can provide access to corporate apps and services without sourcing and configuring a physical device (which, again, the chip shortage is making very difficult these days).

 

Azure Virtual Desktop versus Windows 365

“So Microsoft have TWO virtual desktop solutions?!” I hear you yell. It’s true – and so confusion here is justified. We’ll try to break it down for you.

 

Windows 365 is the new kid on the block, but deep down it’s based on the same technical infrastructure as AVD. You might think that they’re the same service, in that sense. But they’re not. The differences start to become clear when we look at the pricing models for each service.

 

AVD operates on a pay-as-you-go basis where clients are billed based on their Azure consumption. This provides customers with some flexibility in terms of paying only for what they use, but it also means that usage must be closely monitored to avoid unexpected costs.

 

Windows 365, on the other hand, is billed using a predictable per-user-per-month pricing model, with different SKUs available to meet various user needs. Simply put, AVD is optimized for flexibility, whereas Windows 365 is optimized for simplicity.

 

Digital transformation and the partner opportunity

Despite being built on the same tech as AVD, the partner story for Windows 365 is a little different to that of Azure Virtual Desktop. Because Windows 365 is a full-service offering, there is little for partners to tailor or “make their own” with Windows 365. That’s in contrast to AVD where partners like Citrix have created their own unique solutions.

 

But that’s not to say that there isn’t a partner opportunity with Windows 365. The last 16 months have seen companies embark on a period of intense digital transformation to support the remote working needs of employees. Microsoft have created a lot of buzz in for Windows 365, and partners could benefit from the free marketing that Microsoft is generating here.

 

Whilst Windows 365 is built for simplicity, it certainly isn’t the cheapest solution available. This is where the partner opportunity lies – you can ride the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) wave by leveraging AVD and coming in at a price lower than competitors who are simply re-selling Windows 365. The benefit for partners is that they can, in essence, provide the same service as Windows 365 but at a more competitive price to customers.

 

Offering value to your customers

But if AVD isn’t your thing, Windows 365 can add value to your broader set of digital transformation or cloud migration solutions. Customers will make the most of Windows 365 (and AVD) due to access to Microsoft’s suite of market-leading productivity tools that come with it – including documents in OneDrive, emails in Outlook, and Microsoft Teams. Windows 365 could provide that extra value-add that helps your customers migrate fully to the cloud.

 

Fifty Five and Five have a rich history of working with Microsoft Partners to improve their messaging and ultimately drive leads. If you want to improve your value proposition in preparation for Windows 365, get in touch with the team today.


The financial argument for investing in social media

B2B tech companies often ask us our opinion on the value of investing the time and resources (read: money) in developing a social media strategy. We always tell them that social media is a lynchpin of a great inbound marketing approach. But we have sometimes struggled to articulate just how much of an investment is required to generate a specific return. Until now.

Access our free report to get in-depth and quality data on the value of social selling and how you can apply it to your organisation. For example, did you know:

Companies that use social media at least once a week achieved lead deals 1.6 times larger than those who posted at least every month? Among this high performing group, deals were worth an average $75,000 dollars.

 

Get access to many more key findings here.


Our favourite highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021

Following in the footsteps of last year’s event, Microsoft kicked off Ignite 2021 as an online-only affair once again. Whilst our fingers are crossed that Inspire will return to some form of in-person event for 2022, that doesn’t mean we haven’t enjoyed participating in this year’s conference from the comfort of our homes, offices, and home offices.

 

In this blog post, we’re taking a look at some of the biggest highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021.

 

Windows in the cloud – a new opportunity for Microsoft Partners

You may be familiar with Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly Windows Virtual Desktop) – Microsoft’s existing “PC in the cloud” technology. The remote desktop solution saw a significant increase in traffic from Microsoft’s enterprise customers throughout the course of the pandemic, serving as a means for employees to access their apps and files from (thin) client devices at home.

 

It’s therefore no surprise to see Microsoft expand upon Azure Virtual Desktop with a more complete solution for a broader range of customers with Windows 365.

 

Windows 365 “introduces a new way to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 (when it’s available later this calendar year) for businesses of all sizes. Windows 365 takes the operating system to the Microsoft cloud, streaming the full Windows experience — apps, data and settings — to any device” describes Nick Parker, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Global Partner Solutions.

 

And with Windows 365 comes a bunch of new opportunities for Microsoft’s partners. Systems integrators (SIs) and managed service providers (MSPs) can help organizations to make the most of their Windows estates, whilst independent software vendors (ISVs) can build and deliver apps in the cloud to support customers wherever they may work. Hardware partners can also integrate Windows 365 into their portfolio of services alongside feature-rich devices and secure hardware.

 

Windows 365 currently operates on the basis of streaming a full desktop environment to client devices, but it’s not difficult to imagine a future whereby individual apps can be streamed to thin clients instead. That would make it much easier for legacy win32 apps to run on Macs, Android devices, Chromebooks, and maybe even iOS devices if Apple plays ball. Regardless, it’s clear that Microsoft sees remote desktop solutions as an important feature for customers looking to mobilize employees.

 

A fairer commercial marketplace

Speaking of Apple, you may have heard about that snafu between Epic Games and Apple regarding the App Store’s 70/30 revenue split. Well, amidst all that public tension between the two conglomerates, Microsoft revised its own consumer app store policy by decreasing its revenue cut for paid listings. And now that same approach is being applied to Microsoft’s commercial marketplace, which includes the Azure Marketplace and Microsoft AppSource.

 

For all transactable offers in the commercial marketplace, Microsoft will be dropping its industry-standard cut from 20% down to 3% starting this month.

 

It’s a big (and very welcome) change which Microsoft hopes will enable them to do more business with partners in the future. It comes as part of Microsoft’s wider company strategy to do right by developers and make Microsoft platforms the best place to offer apps and services. It makes a lot of sense, and we’re sure many Microsoft partners will be happy to hear this news.

 

Viva updates

We’ve talked previously about Microsoft Viva and its promise to deliver a better online experience for employees. For Microsoft partners, the opportunity to integrate their services with Viva is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the platform (we’re all up for more Headspace!)

 

At this year’s Inspire, Microsoft gave partners an update on the platform’s status, including new integrations with services such as Workday and Qualtrics, as well as the promise that more APIs will roll out for partners later in the year.

 

Specifically, new Viva Connections APIs will enable partners to integrate with the Viva Connections dashboard, enabling greater discoverability of services within the Viva itself. And Viva Learning APIs will allow learning providers to integrate their content into Teams, Office, and other Microsoft 365 endpoints.

 

Microsoft launched Viva earlier this year, but its plan has always been to expand the platform with additional functionality throughout 2021. This Inspire announcement reinforces that roadmap, and we should expect to see more changes as the hybrid revolution takes off.

 

New partner tools

Last year’s Ignite saw the introduction of Microsoft 365 Lighthouse in private preview – a new tool enabling IT partners to onboard, monitor and manage Microsoft 365 customers from one place. This year, Microsoft is announcing the public preview of Microsoft 365 Lighthouse, available to MSP partners serving SMBs using Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

 

But that’s not all. Project Orland is a new experience for cloud solution providers (CSPs) which enables Microsoft-powered customer insights designed to improve account management. Using actionable guidance, Microsoft anticipates that CSPs will be able to build more effective Customer Lifestyle Management practices “to better acquire, retain, and grow your Microsoft 365 customers”. Launching in private preview, Project Orland will use data models built by Microsoft Data Scientists to surface relevant actions for CSPs to take.

 

Each of these tools are intended to help partners identify new growth and profitability opportunities – further proof that Microsoft sees their partners as a valuable piece of the puzzle when it comes to Microsoft software.

 

Investing in partners for the hybrid future

Microsoft’s Nick Parker described how the company will be investing "more in partners across the company than ever before" during the fiscal year of 2022. In addition to the big Ignite highlights, those investments include new go-to-market and technical benefits such as ISV App License Management, discounted dev environments, and substantially reduced revenue sharing, all of which will enable partners to grow their businesses through unique solutions and rapid scaling with Microsoft. Curated training, one-on-one consultations and marketing resources will also help partners scale their solutions and become titans in the Microsoft partner network.

 

Substance to support the pledge

This year’s Inspire made it clear that Microsoft’s partners will remain an invaluable asset to the company long into the post-Covid work environment. Companies can sometimes fall into the trap of making empty promises or underdelivering on their word, but in this case, we’re glad to see the substance to support their pledge.

 

Each year at Microsoft Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing, get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.


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The Microsoft Partner Top 50 movers and shakers for June

The month of June is one of our favourites here at Fifty Five and Five. For starters, it’s officially summer, Pride is all month long and the sport of tennis drops into our lives for two weeks thanks to Wimbledon. And this June, we’ve also been enjoying the European Football Championships. What’s not to love?

 

So, in our mad summer haze of love and sport, we wanted to give a shoutout to a couple of Microsoft Partner Top 50 table success stories:

 

  • Rencore
  • Centric Consulting

 

If you are unfamiliar with it, the Microsoft partner Top 50 is where we and our exclusive algorithm position top ranking Microsoft partners according to the strength of their digital marketing. We look at their inbound marketing output: their website, blog and social media presence.

 

Want a comprehensive look at the Top 50 up until now?

Just in case you missed it, we covered the first half of the year (what, already!?) in a recent article. You can read it right here.

 

Two partners in profile

For a special June shoutout, we look at two top ranking Microsoft partners who have been consistently in our table and continue to either punch above their weight, and/or market themselves in line with their company values to great effect. Competing in a crowded field with much larger organisations is not easy, but Rencore do it with aplomb. Meanwhile, Centric Consulting are masters of building a brand voice.

 

Rencore

Headquartered in Munich, Germany and consistently growing since 2013, Rencore are experts when it comes to Microsoft 365 governance, “empowering everyone to reach business goals without friction.” The business is focused on helping customers stay in control of their Microsoft 365, Teams, SharePoint Online and Azure investments via the Rencore Platform solution.

 

For a team of 25 people in 2018, they pack a serious marketing punch and are a tremendously successful example of what good inbound marketing can do. At the time of writing they are in 11th place on our list, ahead of much larger brands like Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Rackspace, not to mention rival (and former Top 50 kingpin) ShareGate).

 

Rencore have the classic inbound marketing strategy patter down. Their website is clear and concise. They know their audience and the kind of content they will appreciate. At times, their content can be highly technical, but they are gifted at balancing being experts with being digestible – and dare we say... fun?

"We have an incredibly talented in-house team who work in a well-fostered, creative environment for producing new content ideas and designs and tailor them to our marketing channels and campaigns. In busy periods, we reach out to Fifty Five and Five to help support that effort, and they fit in seamlessly."

-        Matthias Einig, CEO and Co-founder at Rencore

 

Centric Consulting

Based in 14 locations across the United States, Centric Consulting provide top quality digital, business and technology consulting primarily focusing on business resilience and continuity. Something that’s ever more important in this day and age.

 

A company that began as an idea between three friends and grew organically from their living room before ever setting foot in an office, Centric are another terrific digital disruption success story. And their essential approach of “enjoying the people you work with, having fun and doing great work” is something that infiltrates its way into their marketing, too. Their position at 44th place, out of tens of thousands of partners, speaks to this core set of values. They have a top SEO score coupled with an almost equally excellent content score. Hop on to their website and be immediately engaged.

 

"For Centric Consulting, great content is rooted in three fundamentals. First, be timely and relevant, which includes paying close attention to the needs of customers and the market in general. Second, provide unique, helpful perspectives that provide value – arm your audience with information to elevate their work. And third, apply marketing fundamentals to everything – optimize all content for search, leverage a variety of marketing channels, and have a strategic plan that guides all activity."

-        Misty Walsh, National Marketing Director at Centric Consulting

 

Check out the Microsoft Partner Top 50 and see how you compare

Keep checking our continuously updated Top 50 Microsoft Partners to see how you and other partners are doing. To be one of the top-ranking Microsoft partners our list, you just need a good plan of action – a thoughtful strategy, a fool-proof schedule, and the resources (i.e. people with the right skills) to carry it out consistently. If you need help with any of your digital marketing, get in contact and we’ll be happy to help.