Something Old, Something New…Microsoft’s partner model transforms to address the IoT and AI opportunity

November 01, 2018 | Mariner

Microsoft is in the midst of their 8-city “IoT in Action” tour bringing their message of “IoT for All” to developers, partners, and customers around the globe. Mariner/Spyglass is a Gold Microsoft partner and creates IIoT and AI analytics software exclusively on Microsoft Azure so we signed up early to be at the event in Santa Clara, CA last week. We joined our friends and colleagues from Microsoft and the partner community along with about 3,000 other attendees. My first impression was that there are abundantly more Tesla’s on the highway in Silicon Valley than in my hometown of Burlington, VT.

My second impression was just how quickly the IoT market is moving. From a Microsoft perspective, Satya Nadella has been championing a world view of “Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge” for several years, but the growth of an IoT and AI partner and developer ecosystem to truly address this vision is only about 18-24 months old.

Now many, if not most, of these partners and developers are not new to Microsoft’s cloud and development platforms, but the services they are building and the way that they are working together is radically transforming. When attendees at the event were at their most candid, they would share comments like “we are still trying to figure out how to work together.”

For me, a marketer who has worked in the Microsoft community for over two decades, I found myself working hard to retrain myself not to think of partners in the old pre-IoT and pre-AI terms that I was used to. “How does your solution add value to the customer in an IoT use case?” or “How does your business model work?” were not dumb questions at this event, even for companies I have known and worked with for many years. Here’s a sample of some of the ‘retraining’ I was doing.

  • Old World - Windows Embedded OEMs and device manufacturers
  • New World – Endpoint device manufacturers for IoT Edge
    Example: Windows IoT devices and a new Qualcomm IoT Edge/AI-embedded camera that Microsoft was showing off to demonstrate their Vision AI development kit
  •  Opportunities they are chasing: 1) Enabling IoT Edge, 2) Excellence in data capture – video, audio, biometric, non-standard data types that need to be processes at mass quantities and rapid speeds 3) Enabling cognitive
  • Old World – Mobile carriers
  • New World – IoT Connectivity solutions
  • Sample – securing the last mile of reliable connectivity for IoT devices to quickly connect to the cloud for bidirectional communication
  • Opportunity: 1) IoT connected networks for smart buildings, smart cities, consumer to cloud, business to cloud, 2) extreme environments
  • Old World – Distributors
  • New World – IoT Solution Aggregators
  • Sample – general contractors assembling groups of IoT partners across device, connectivity, gateway, cloud, applications to create fully realized solutions that customers can deploy with limited requirement to build these solutions on their own
  • Opportunity – 1) scaling IoT and AI solutions through their reseller channel to the SMB market, 2) creating profitable growth in the distribution and reseller channels as SaaS revenue models challenge software margins
  • Old – Application developers/ISVs
  • New – Applications developers/ISVs with AI
  • Opportunity – Selling “AI-trained models” on app marketplaces

Mariner is undergoing this transformation as well. We built on the successful value our customers at Mariner have achieved with business intelligence and advanced analytics to create new SaaS solutions.

This post was authored by Megan Buntain