Well it’s practically here. There are only a few days until the start of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto this Sunday July 8th. This blog intends to give you a few facts on what to expect while attending the show. The first thing to expect is a lot of people. Last year former Microsoft Canada president Eric Gales told CDN that he wanted to break the all-time attendance record for WPC.

And, judging from the numbers I’ve been hearing it will be close. Three year’s ago the conference in Washington, D.C. broke records. That show had just over 14,000 people in attendance of which 9,000 were channel partners from around the world. In LA, last year, Microsoft upped that mark to 12,000 channel partners but that only managed to increase attendance by an extra 1,000 people to 15,000.

This yearMicrosoft Canada will be very close to breaking the record. According to internal documents obtained by CDN, the Canadian subsidiary is expecting more than 15,000 attendees representing 156 countries. Gales told me that he aimed for 17,000 to 18,000 and given the proximity of Toronto to say LA I thought that was a doable goal.

Of those 15,000 people approximately 5,300 will be gold partners, 2,900 will be silver partners along with 200 or so compete partners. This group will be made up of 1,750 or more C-level executives.

CDN has also learned that Microsoft executives will total 175 and that will include a majority of the country managers from around the world.

Microsoft Canada has built an impressive conference with 26 business tracks and over 200 sessions. The company expects to conduct an astounding 25,000 business meetings during the five day conference. There will be a show floor featuring more than 144 exhibits.

WPC has also been excellent in providing channel partners with networking events and opportunities and Toronto will be no different. There are about 500 or so networking events that will include lunches, receptions, golf tournaments, and the big concert on Thursday night featuring the band Train at the Polson Pier in Toronto’s waterfront area.

So why is Microsoft and to a lesser degree Microsoft Canada pulling out all the stops this year at WPC. The Toronto conference will have a new theme: “A New Era. Together” The focus of this theme will be to think differently and act differently. Microsoft executives will be pushing hard to deliver this message to channel partners and get them ready for 2013. According to the same documents obtained by CDN, 2013 will be the biggest launch year in Microsoft’s history.

Kicking off the conference will be company CEO Steve Ballmer at 9AM on Monday. He will be talking about the new era and will try to set the stage for encouraging partners to get inspired, obtain new skills and knowledge to get ready to sell the Microsoft stack in 2013.

Ballmer will be followed up by Tami Reller who will detail Windows 8. The other keynotes are Kurt DelBene on productivity, Satya Nadella on connected devices so look for Surface info on Tuesday, Kirill Tatarinov on Microsoft Building Solutions, Laura Ipsen on national plans, Thom Gruhler on Windows Phone. On the Wednesday we get the channel chief keynote from Jon Roskill and he will talk about the new vision for the Microsoft Partner Network. Then comes company COO Kevin Turner who usually does a competitive analysis so look for him to deliver new ideas of beating Google in the market place. The keynotes end with Deepak Chopra who will talk about leadership, courage and the future of wellbeing.

Speaking of the Microsoft Partner Network the software giant will have a large, multi-purpose booth on display to outline the benefits and cloud plans. The booth will have jumbo screens, partner focus groups, training sessions and kiosks for Pinpoint, and Microsoft Learning.

One special session I encourage channel partners to attend is the IAMCP Canada Women in Technology luncheon which features Joey Adler, the founder of OneXOne. Adler will talk about her personal journey and teach attendees how to find the courage to make a difference in your own life and the lives of others. This luncheon happens on Wednesday July 11 at 11:30 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Room 701AB. I will be there and hope you will too.

Another cool part of the conference, again from the IAMCP, is the P2P Speed Networking session. Again it will be held in Room 701AB on Tuesday and Wednesday between 3PM and 5PM. Speed networking consists of five minute sessions between partners. That means in two hours you get to meet at least 24 partners who are interested in Dynamics, Sharepoint, SQL Server and the Azure cloud.

Now CDN readers already know that Navantis of Toronto captured the Microsoft's 2012 Country Partner of the Year award. Navantis president John Kvasnic will be on stage Thursday to get his company’s award. Microsoft will be presenting the winners at an awards luncheon on Monday shortly after the main keynotes are done. CDN has learned who the winners are:

Infront Consulting Group will win the Corporate Account Virtualization Data Centre Services Partner of the Year award.

Infusion won the Cloud Partner of the Year prize.

Itergy was named the Identity and Security Partner of the Year award.

Open Text Corp. is the Alliance ISV Industry Partner of the Year champion.

Softchoice is Microsoft’s Outstanding Sales Operations Partner of the year.

And, Systemgroup Consulting won the Data Platform Partner of the Year award.

There were many other Canadian-based award finalists such as Affinity Systems Ltd., Alantex Corp., Altus Dynamics, ITNorth.ca, Panorama Software Inc., Pareto Platform Inc., and Titus Inc.

Two quick hit before I go. Thomas Nielsen has stepped down after just eight months as CEO of RealNetworks, the Seattle-based company best known for its RealPlayer multimedia-streaming software. Rob Glaser, the company's founder and chairman, has returned to the CEO job to fill in on an interim basis, RealNetworks said. Nielsen is not leaving to take a position elsewhere, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

RealNetworks has struggled financially in recent months. The company reported a net loss of US$17 million in the first quarter of 2012, following a loss for the full year in 2011. In January, it sold $120 million in video software and patents to chip maker Intel.
 
Brad Stanghetta has been named vice president of Xerox Canada's Western Market Centre. Stanghetta most recently served as the national general manager of Xerox`s Canadian Authorized Agent Operations. Stanghetta will be responsible for all western operations based in Calgary. He joined Xerox in 2002 as a sales representative in commercial accounts and has held many roles since that time including general manager of major accounts.
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