So I was fortunate to attend this year's worldwide partner conference over in Houston, Texas

For those of you who don't know what this event is all about it's basically the big show of the year for Microsoft partners, 12000 of them in fact I believe, that are brought together for a few days of keynotes, specific breakout tracks, training and hands on labs not forgetting the most important aspect – networking and a bit of fun thrown in for good measure.

This year we all descended into Houston Texas, into a typical southern US summer... hmm anybody like rain in 35 deg C?

Anyway apart from the usual topics such as Vista, Windows Mobile and CRM the big message was on Microsoft's Online services and its strategy for the new world of Software as a Service – Software plus Services if you take the Microsoft view.

Lots of articles have been written on this topic to name but a few...

Microsoft Online represents a great opportunity for the whole of the Microsoft ecosystem and channel partners, including our hosting partners: bringing awareness to the world on hosted solutions and software services, enabling new scenarios and revenue opportunities for different partner bases and enabling the channel to provide solutions that customers have been asking for, plus enabling some great new opportunities for our hosting partners in differentiating their offerings and targeting more specific offerings to the market.

There is a picture I used to help me articulate at our hosting event in London a few months ago that really talks to this:

It was great to see some of the UK hosting partners in attendance this year at WPC including, Cobweb, Genesis, IncreaseCRM, Endeavours, MasterNaut, Trident Group, NetworkSI and although they couldn't attend, 7Global were a finalist in the partner of the year award for Advanced Infrastructure Solutions – Hosting solutions.