imageHappy New Year, and welcome to this week’s issue of the US Partner News Online! Each week, we’ll bring you the latest news and information for Microsoft partners. You can read previous weeks’ issues at http://aka.ms/uspnewsletter. If you’d like to see the next post in your email inbox, go to http://aka.ms/uspblog and enter your email address under “Subscribe and follow” on the right hand side.

Program Updates Coming in February

In February, there are programmatic changes coming to the Microsoft Partner Network, including the revamped Microsoft Action Pack; the new Intelligent Systems competency; the integration of Microsoft cloud services to competency and Action Pack internal use benefits (Office 365, Windows Azure, Windows Intune, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online); and updated Certification exam and presales technical assessment requirements for many competencies.

To understand what changes will affect your company, and how, use these resources:

  • Read the announcement Julie Bennani made in November about the new timeline for MPN changes.
  • Download and review the revised MPN disclosure guide that was published in December for details about program-wide changes that affect all partner levels and Action Pack or competency changes that apply to you. 
  • Ask questions and request help as needed in the Partner membership forum of the Partner Support Community. Within the forum, you can do a quick search to see if your question or issue has already been addressed, and you can request private communications with a Microsoft representative when needed.

Top Stories

Your Mobility Opportunity: The Sky's the Limit for Partners
On the Arts and Sciences of Partnership blog, Jenni Flinders, the Microsoft US Channel Chief, talks about how Microsoft partners are creating business-focused Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps that increase customer productivity, wherever they are.

imageThe Countdown Is On: Are Your Customers Ready for the End of Windows XP, Office 2003, and Exchange 2003 Support?
Microsoft support for Windows XP, Office 2003, and Exchange 2003 ends April 8, 2014—fewer than 100 days away. Help your customers move their IT infrastructure to current, supported versions of these products. Our resources will provide you with the information you need to start the customer conversation, assess their current environments, and help them upgrade.

Microsoft Health User Group to Recognize Innovation in Partner Solutions
If your company is an ISV or system integrator that created an innovative, Microsoft-based solution for a healthcare organization this year, consider working with your customer to submit it as an entry for the Microsoft Health Users Group Innovation Awards 2014. Showcase how your solution has transformed the quality of patient care, reduced costs, streamlined clinical and business process, and enabled informed decision making. Submissions are being accepted through Monday, January 27.

imagePlan to Join Us in Washington, DC for WPC 2014
Registration is open for the 2014 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, July 13–17. At WPC, our global convergence of Microsoft partners, you’ll hear the latest product and technology roadmap, identify new opportunities for business focus and profitability, and network with Microsoft and its top partners.

Free Ebooks: High Quality Technical Content from Microsoft Press
The Microsoft Learning team offers you a series of focused, high quality Microsoft Press books that you can download at no cost. Use them to help prepare for your next Microsoft Certification exam or Microsoft-based project.

Cloud Essentials Retirement in June 2014
As part of the changes to the Microsoft Partner Network that will take place starting in February 2014, the Cloud Essentials program will be retired on June 30. Internal-use rights for cloud services like Office 365, Windows Intune, Windows Azure, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will be available to you through the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription or a Microsoft competency.

Revamped Microsoft Action Pack Subscription Coming February 2014
The new Action Pack subscription will be more flexible, providing content and training organized and optimized for specific partner business models like hosting, application development, custom services, managed services, reselling, and device design and development. Your internal-use software licenses will be expanded to include cloud services like Office 365, Windows Intune, Windows Azure, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Competency Requirements Updates Take Effect February 2014
To ensure that partners have the most current skills and applications to successfully build, sell, and deliver their Microsoft-based solutions, competency requirements will be updated to reflect current Certification exams, sales accreditations, and application requirements. Download the recently updated MPN disclosure.

XPcampaign_publicsectorThe New Windows in Public Sector Campaign from Ready-to-Go Marketing
Windows XP platform end-of-support is fast-approaching. But even when the pressure's on, you can help give those who serve and protect the agility to get the job done—wherever it takes them. Use customer-ready, industry-specific demand-generation materials to help shape government, health, and public safety customer conversations. Then, expand your practice by applying your windows deployment expertise and high-value services to smooth clinician, first responder, and field worker transition to the new Windows.

Engage in CityNext and Help Cities Transform, Engage, and Accelerate
CityNext helps you work with city leaders to transform infrastructures, engage citizens, and accelerate economic opportunities. Find out what your opportunity is and how you can get involved by downloading the CityNext presentation. Engage in CityNext by February 28 and be entered into a sweepstakes to win an all access pass for WPC 2014 in Washington, DC.
No purchase necessary. Open only to authorized reps of partners actively enrolled in the Microsoft Partner Network with a silver or gold competency, and 18+ years old. Game ends February 28, 2014. Winners must pay all travel and meal costs to attend WPC 2014. Official rules in the appendix of the CityNext presentation.

Convergence 2014 Registration Is Open, March 4–7 in Atlanta, Georgia
Customers and their Microsoft partners from around the world come together at Convergence 2014 to experience the premiere event for Microsoft Dynamics. Make your plans to attend Convergence 2014, and talk to your customers about attending, too, using materials available on PartnerSource. Register by January 9 and save $300 per attendee.

Resources

MPNChangesDownload and Review the Revised MPN Disclosure Guide
In February, there are programmatic changes coming to the Microsoft Partner Network, including the revamped Microsoft Action Pack; the new Intelligent Systems competency; the integration of Microsoft cloud services to competency and Action Pack internal use benefits (Office 365, Windows Azure, Windows Intune, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online); and updated Certification exam and presales technical assessment requirements for many competencies.

US SMB Regional Partner Calls in January
Join your local team for their monthly SMB partner call. These calls cover sales, technology, and marketing information and resources for resellers that serve SMB customers.

Prepare for the January Security Bulletin
The next security bulletin release is on Tuesday, January 14. Review the December 2013 security updates, which cover Internet Explorer, Microsoft Developer Tools, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Server software, and Windows. You can watch the December webcast on demand, and register for the next webcast, on January 15.

Connect Your Sales Team with Prospects Through Social Media
Try this new service that helps you build pipeline through social media by providing you with industry-relevant content optimized for lead generation. Use promo code MSFT14.

Connect Your Microsoft Certification to Your Company's MPN Membership
Connect your Microsoft account (formerly Windows Live ID) to your company's Microsoft Partner Network profile to ensure your certification is applied to requirements, and to take advantage of membership benefits like no-cost and low-cost training and technical resources like product support and advisory services.

Set Your Job Role in Your MPN Profile to Get More Relevant Communications
Along with your company's MPN profile, your individual MPN profile settings help us direct the right email communications about partner information, resources, and opportunities to you. You can quickly check your primary job role setting, and update it if necessary, in the Partner Membership Center. Your job role is in the Your Name and Job Responsibilities section.

Training and Certification

Stay informed about training opportunities that align to your business, role, and Microsoft Partner Network membership.

HotSheet_112013January Hot Sheet: Find and Register for Upcoming Training and Partner Calls
The Hot Sheet is a frequently updated schedule of live virtual and in-person training and informational calls that are coming in the next few weeks. Look for the February issue during the week of January 13. Subscribe to the US Partner Learning blog to receive the Hot Sheet as soon as it's published each month.

Improve Your Company's Time to Deployment
In a Practice Accelerator, you get a detailed framework of resources that spans from pre-engagement to post-delivery that will improve your company's efficiency so you can deploy solutions faster. The schedule for January through March is now posted and includes Practice Accelerators for Windows 8, Data Center, Business Intelligence, Office 365, and SharePoint 2013.

imageNew Year, New Certification Exam Offer
Build your product knowledge and capabilities by earning the certifications and accreditations that help you and your company stand out. Through May 31, MPN Competency Exam packs are available for 40% off a pack of 20 exams or 35% off a pack of 5 exams. Individuals have until December 31 to schedule and take the qualifying exams in the packs.

Prepare for Microsoft Certification Exams with On-Demand Training
Microsoft learning paths link you to on-demand courses that will help expand your Microsoft product knowledge and prepare for Microsoft Certification Exams. Use the learning plan feature to track your progress toward your goals.

Prepare for Microsoft Sales Assessments with On-Demand Training
Microsoft learning paths link you to on-demand courses that will help expand your Microsoft product knowledge and prepare for Microsoft Certification Exams. Use the learning plan feature to track your progress toward your goals.

Prepare to Meet New Presales Technical Assessment Requirements with On-Demand Training
Effective February 2014, presales technical assessments will be required to earn the Collaboration and Content, Communications, Customer Relationship Management, Business Intelligence, Devices and Deployment, Enterprise Resource Planning, and Messaging competencies.

SamuraiServerSMB Partners: Increase Your Profitability with Windows Server 2012 R2
The technology landscape for small and medium businesses is changing, and we can help you be ready for it. Take advantage of the growing opportunities in virtualization, disaster recovery, and affordable storage by attending this webcast series. These live webcasts cover both deep technical content and sales strategies.

Datacenter Training and Sweepstakes for Presales Technical Roles
Take the Transform the Datacenter Immersion courses to understand the benefits that transforming a modern datacenter can provide customers. You'll learn the key steps and technology capabilities in planning, deploying, and managing this type of environment—a Cloud OS solution that includes Windows Server, Microsoft System Center, and Windows Azure. When you complete a module's assessment, you'll earn an entry to our sweepstakes. Sweepstakes ends March 31, 2014. Open only to authorized representatives of companies enrolled in the Microsoft Partner Network with a valid MPN ID who are legal residents of the US, age 18 and older. Limit 20 entries per person. Official rules.

What's New in VDI for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1
Watch this two-module series for a complete understanding of the end-to-end process for implementing desktop virtualization using Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1. Topics include virtual desktop configuration and management, leveraging tiered storage and storage de-duplication using Windows Server 2012 R2, demonstrating the remote desktop capabilities of devices such as Windows RT, iOS, and Android, and more.

Microsoft Dynamics ERP Certification Promotion Extended to January 31
Requirements for the Microsoft Partner Network ERP competency are changing to reflect the most current certifications for GP 2013 and NAV 2013. Pass a qualifying Microsoft Certification exam by January 31 and be entered to win a Surface Pro 2 with Type Cover 2 Keyboard. Sweepstakes details and official rules.

Microsoft Dynamics Partner Training Schedule
Over the next few months, there are several virtual and in-person opportunities to increase your knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics ERP. Use the links in our blog post to register for the courses that meet your business needs.

imageCalendar Through January 31

This list is a sampling of upcoming partner calls, training, and events. Refer to the January Hot Sheet for a comprehensive list for the next several weeks that's frequently updated, and look for the February Hot Sheet during the week of January 13.

January 7 – Samurai Server Webcast: Tech Dive – Why Pay More to Virtualize (Hyper-V vs. VMWare)

January 9 – Cloud 1-2-3 Webcast: Showcase the Value of Office 365, Generate Leads, and Accelerate Sales Through MEC Demo

January 9 – Last day to save $300 on your Convergence 2014 registration

January 10 – East Region SMB Partner Call

January 13 – Business Intelligence Practice Accelerator (download the datasheet)

January 14 – Session 1 of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Virtual Foundation Training

January 14 – SharePoint Practice Accelerator (download the datasheet)

January 14 – Samurai Server Webcast: Selling Affordable Disaster Recovery Solutions with Windows Server 2012 R2

January 14 – January Security Bulletin release

January 15 – January Security Bulletin webcast

January 15 – Countdown2Modern Webcast: Why Upgrade Customers to Windows 8.1 and a Modern Desktop

January 16 – Session 2 of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Virtual Foundation Training

January 16 – Office 365 Practice Accelerator (download the datasheet)

January 16 – Virtualization Technology Users Group Conference

January 17 – Central Region SMB Partner Call

January 17 – West Region SMB Partner Call

January 21 – Samurai Server Webcast: Tech Dive – Disaster Recovery Solutions

January 21 – Windows 8.1 Developer Training: Geek Edition

January 22 – SharePoint Practice Accelerator (download the datasheet)

January 22 – Countdown2Modern Webcast: How to Target and Engage the Right Customers for Windows 8.1 and Office 365

January 23 – Windows Performance Jump Start

January 30 – Office 365 Practice Accelerator (download the datasheet)

Featured Video

Watch this video to see and hear Mike Reavey, General Manager for Trustworthy Computing, talk about Operational Security Assurance (OSA)—an important part of Microsoft security efforts. The design of a secure operations methodology is part of our ongoing commitment to enable trustworthy computing in all aspects of our online services, and OSA represents the next evolution of these efforts.

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