At Internet World Fall 2000, Microsoft announced that the company was revamping the Microsoft Certified Solution Provider (MCSP) program and renaming it the Microsoft Certified Partner Program. The new program, which as of press time was scheduled to begin January 1, 2001, builds on MCSP and offers Microsoft's partners a variety of meaningful technical certifications that will benefit their customers. In addition, Microsoft is creating a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner certification level, which has much higher certification requirements and greater Microsoft support for members. According to Rosa Garcia, general manager of Microsoft Partner Programs, the new certifications are a win-win-win for Microsoft, its partners, and their customers.

"This is really exciting," Garcia said during a question-and-answer session with Windows 2000 Magazine. "In the past, we had relationships with partners, but this new vision opens up new opportunities for everyone." Microsoft's MCSP program, which has 31,000 members, has been in place since 1992, but the company wants to work more closely with its partners and help those partners work with, rather than compete against, one another. New peer networking services will help Microsoft partners more easily offer integrated solutions. Also, Microsoft Certified Partners can concentrate on market and technical readiness for the new .NET initiative. Garcia reported that more than 96 percent of Microsoft's revenue comes from its partners, so this program is an asset in which the company wants to invest.

"Our partners want to be able to differentiate themselves," Garcia said, "and make it easy to have a relationship with Microsoft. But they also want us to share intellectual property with them and treat them like employees." Microsoft won't hand out the Win2K source code any time soon, but the company will begin to share technical and marketing documents as well as other internal tools with its partners.

When asked what would make the new Microsoft Certified Partner program a success a year from its launch, Garcia was clear: The company wants to see 1000 of its partners elevated to the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner level and wants program renewals in the 96 percent range. "But most importantly," she added, "customers should respect the Microsoft Certified Partner Program and seek out our partners when they need to implement Microsoft technology. That's how we'll know we did the right thing."