Waiting to board a plane headed for a Microsoft event several years ago, I realized how many people on my flight had jobs that in some way depended on Microsoft. The wide economic impact of Microsoft’s business struck me that day, and I had the same feeling last week at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver. More than 12,000 people gathered to gear up for selling and supporting Microsoft products. The importance of Windows Vista became evident when Microsoft cited an IDC white paper, telling those attendees that for every dollar Microsoft will earn from Vista in 2008, the company’s partners will make approximately $22. (You can find the white paper “The Economic Impact of Microsoft’s Windows Vista Worldwide in the Coming Year,” commissioned by Microsoft, at http://download.microsoft.com/download/2/8/1/281dda34-b8fc-4b4c-9848-c6fa2ba8fa8a/IDC_vista_whitepaper.pdf).

To help its partners bring in that money, Microsoft announced several tools and resources that address customer pain points. If you’re considering moving to Vista, you’ll want to know what tools Microsoft is making available to its partners. The tools include Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) 2.0, the Windows Vista Business Value Assessment, and Microsoft LicenseWise.

Hardware Assessment
Aimed at midsized companies and with the ability to scan up to 25,000 PCs per domain, WVHA 2.0 is an updated version of a network-wide assessment tool Microsoft introduced in February. WVHA 2.0 lets you or Microsoft’s partners determine whether your hardware can support Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. With your cooperation, a partner can remotely and securely connect to your network, without installing agents, and collect relevant hardware information through Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). Product Manager Baldwin Ng said that WVHA could return results within one hour and give you guidance on driver updates. WVHA 2.0 is available to IT pros, as well as partners, and you can download it at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/solutionaccelerators/hardwareassessment/wv/default.mspx.

Vista’s ROI
Microsoft has recognized that many companies aren't convinced Vista will benefit their bottom line. To address this concern, the company worked with IDC and Alinean Inc., to develop the Business Value Assessment tool. Value-added resellers, systems integrators, and managed service providers can use the tool to calculate Vista’s potential ROI and build a business case for deploying it. The goal is to help customers “realize an increased value of up to $130 per PC annually,” according to Microsoft. This tool isn't available to IT pros without going through a Microsoft partner.

Microsoft LicenseWise
The Microsoft Product Licensing Advisor (MPLA) became available in November 2005 to address midmarket IT pros’ complaints about the complexity of Microsoft’s licensing. (You can download this wizard-driven tool at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/mplahome.mspx.)

Microsoft Worldwide Licensing and Pricing Director Teresa Howe told me Microsoft has now released a companion product, Microsoft LicenseWise, for Microsoft partners. Responding to partner feedback, Microsoft wanted “to make sure we could connect that customer-to-partner experience and further extend that ease and simplicity around the licensing rules and logic.” LicenseWise provides information across programs such as Open License, Open Value, Select License, and Enterprise Agreement and informs users about product prerequisites and programs such as Software Assurance.

According to Microsoft, “LicenseWise is linked with the MPLA to strengthen collaboration between partners and their customers through a seamless, consistent and predictable interaction.” So you can use MPLA to compile a quote for licensing a particular product, then call a Microsoft partner and give the product-specific quote from MPLA. LicenseWise will automatically pull up a fully configured partner UI and let the partner customize the quote to add in partner-specific products and services.

Moving forward, Microsoft is considering requests for the tool to be integrated with the partners’ own systems, to provide the ability to manage quotes, and to be expanded into further Microsoft licensing programs such as campus school agreements and ISV royalties. In addition, partners want better access to Microsoft promotions and offers. Howe said that future versions “will include alerts around promotions so that they become very visible and provide much more consistency to customers.”