WPC is one of the bigger conferences in high tech. It brings together about 15,000 people and it's also one of the longer conferences in the world. It runs about four to five days.
The last time it was held in Toronto was in 2004 and it brought about 5,000 people to the show. Microsoft Canada President Eric Gales hopes to set a record for attendance and for Canadian partner attendance. At this year's event in LA, 480 Canadian channel partners attended, which was about 100 more than last year in Washington, D.C. I think breaking that record will be an easy one for sure since many partners don't have to incur travel costs to attend this show, which has been called “The Channel Partner Olympics.”
Gales told me that he wants the maximum attendance next year at WPC and he is going to work hard on not just encouraging the partners from the greater Toronto area, but also French speaking channel partners.
Another opportunity to increase the size of the attendance is by recruiting compete partners. Now Microsoft has always brought in a few compete partners at every WPC. But in 2012 they will be ramping that up. One of the channel communities they will be targeting is Cisco Canada's partner network.
Microsoft Lync, which just got a new set of channel incentives, is being positioned to work on top of the Cisco stack. Microsoft Canada executives told me that Lync opens up the conversation with Cisco customers. Now Microsoft will also be targeting Oracle, VMware and others, but the biggest fish, partner wise, is Cisco.
This is the first time Microsoft pinpointed Cisco as a direct competitor. The sense I got from listening to these comments is that Microsoft is serious about going after Cisco and its channel partners. Having WPC in Toronto is going to create a lot of hype, excitement and motivation. I totally see Cisco partners coming to WPC in Toronto, learning about alternative solutions, enjoying the many parties and possibly seeing themselves supporting Microsoft technology. At this year's WPC in LA, I talked to one long time, loyal Cisco partner who was visiting WPC for the very first time.
It was strange to see him there, but he is an independent business man and he will do what's best for his customers and his own business. It makes sense to look at all of his options and I think Cisco partners will look at products such as Lync and Office 365.
That's bad news for Cisco and Cisco Canada.