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Microsoft rebrands Partner Network to strengthen cloud focus

However, Microsoft's contentious New Commerce Experience scheme went unmentioned during Wednesday's announcement

Microsoft has announced that its Partner Network, which comprises 400,000 organisations globally, will be rebranded to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Programme in an effort to strengthen the focus on the tech giant’s cloud offering.

Launched as the Microsoft Certified Solution Provider in 1992, the programme has faced multiple rebrands in the three decades of operation. Between 2000 and 2010, it was known as the Microsoft Partner Program, before relaunching as the Microsoft Partner Network later that year.

The latest rebranding, announced on Wednesday, will become effective on 3 October 2022. It will see the programme’s tier system of Silver and Gold competencies be replaced by a basic solutions partner level, with additional specialisations and expert programmes being made available.

These will focus on proficiency in Microsoft’s six new solution areas: Data & AI (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), Digital & App Innovation (Azure), Business Applications, Modern Work, and Security.

With three out of six solution areas centred around Azure, Microsoft is pushing its reseller partners to focus on distributing its cloud offerings instead of more traditional products, such as Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices.

However, the tech giant failed to address its contentious New Commerce Experience (NCE) policy that was expanded to cover Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Windows 365, and the Power Platform in December 2021.

Under NCE, a one-month subscription is 20% more expensive than an annual subscription, a move that attracted criticism from partners and former Microsoft employees alike. A significant point of contention is based on the risk that, in the case of a customer becoming insolvent, the reseller partner is then responsible for the bill to Microsoft for the remaining time of the year-long contract.

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Former Microsoft MVP Nick Whittome publicly described NCE as “a mess”, accusing it of “tying partners, distributors and end users into annual contracts that can go up, but not down, with no protection for liquidation”.

According to Whittome, Microsoft is in the process of reviewing complaints related to NCE, with “no decision as of yet”. Microsoft wasn’t immediately available to comment on Whittome’s statement.

The announcement comes as the tech giant also revealed updates to its Teams, Outlook, and PowerPoint services to tailor them more towards the realities of hybrid and remote work.

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