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Travelling back after a week with Microsoft and its worldwide partners in a balmy (no pun intended) Houston, Texas. Time to reflect on the week. Some really good conversations with Microsoft people aside, what impression did the 14.000 or so attendees leave with?

Well there was the obvious—plugs for Windows 8.1 and Azure, positioning around social and big data, and relentless drumming on the message of Microsoft being  a devices and services company. Beyond that I picked up three key impressions:

Light at the end of the tunnel is boosting Microsoft’s confidence

In many ways Microsoft has had a difficult past year. Heavy criticism of Windows 8 from desktop users, Windows Phone still not selling very well, PC sales declining…. the list could go on. But now the Windows 8 fix (Windows 8.1) is on its way, Apple is seen as the ones copying their design from Windows Phone, lots of new tablets and two-in-one windows devices are coming out to pick up the fight with iPad.

There was an air of relief with  the Microsoft crew, and I am sure with many partners as well. Microsoft is starting their new fiscal year not only with a new organization, but also with a stronger confidence.

Surface sales are disappointing

Queue for the discoutned Microsoft SurfaceAs much as Microsoft claims to be happy with surface sales, nobody (non-Microsoft employees) I talked to thought they were.  And the feeling wasn’t help by the fact that they were practically giving away (well, for $99) surfaces to conference delegates. The store sign saying “don’t worry – we have plenty of stock” certainly caused a few sarcastic remarks.

The offer turned out to be popular though with people waiting hours to buy their discounted surface. Good job they had us all buy it through the Microsoft online store—it would surely have added several thousand units to the sales statistics.

Bold claims about the cloud and Office 365

Microsoft clearly are proud of what they have achieved with Windows Azure and Office 365. Growth and revenue figures for these products were frequently cited. I don’t think I was the only one thinking “has Office 365 really sold that well, I don’t know many of our customers that use it?”.

Awards

I think Microsoft set a new record for the number of awards presented in a minute. I counted no less than 11 global partner awards within a single minute. Here are a few awards of my own:

  • Best applauds – presentation of the Start-button during the opening keynote.
  • Best entertainment – Lenny Kravitz, hard to beat.
  • Best quote – “…and sure did we get some feedback…” – Steve Ballmer in the opening keynote trying to explain that Microsoft actually wanted to get a lot of feedback on Windows 8.

It’s been a week of head down focusing on all things Microsoft. Time to Surface to the real world and some weeks of holiday. And yes, I too bought a $99 Surface RT.

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