Microsoft Introduces Partner Programs for ASPs, ISVs

NEW YORK --For the past eight years, Microsoft has certified consulting organizations withits Microsoft Certified Solution Provider (MCSP) program. Other key Microsoftpartners, such as ISVs and ASPs, have been left in the lurch. A recentinitiative by Microsoft attempts to close the gap and reassure customers aboutthe quality of vendors.

At InternetWorld, Microsoft announced its new Microsoft Certified Partner and MicrosoftCertified Gold Partner programs. The programs give users a unified brand forselecting consulting services, software vendors, ASPs, and vendors doingcontract software development.

RosaGarcia, general manager of the Microsoft partner programs, felt the abundanceof Microsoft certifications has diluted their significance and createdconfusion among the customer base. Garcia believes the new unified two-tierapproach will simplify choosing products and services for customers.

Garcia says96 percent of Microsoft revenue is derived from partners, so having a clearpartnership system is critical for Microsoft's success. Garcia also points tothe rapidly shifting e-business market, where a single mistake in selecting avendor can make or break a company. "The customers don't want to be aguinea pig for anyone."

To reducethe amount of experimentation by support vendors, Microsoft introduced a newrubric for certifying partners and took a two-tiered approach for labels.Vendors who meet outlined specifications are anointed Microsoft CertifiedPartners. Partners who go above and beyond can reach the level of MicrosoftCertified Gold Partner.

Thespecifications for certifying ISVs as certified partners run in addition tocertifying an application. If 35 percent of an ISVs output is certified for theWindows platform, the company can apply to become a partner. Unlike consultingorganizations, Microsoft certifies ISVs on the basis of code, rather thanpeople.

Quality ofservice is the critical factor for ASPs who wish to gain certification withinthe programs. Microsoft engineers visit the site, check out the operatingenvironment, and determine whether the partner can deliver on services offeredto customers.

Microsoftbegan its Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider program in 1992 to ensure thatconsulting organizations using Microsoft products meet a certain level ofservice.

Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash.,