About six years ago, it dawned on a few of us that the business of exposing our valued customers and partners to new and emerging technologies was a bit dated. Beta code had always been reasonably available for download but it was difficult to get additional information and guidance needed to truly evaluate and take advantage of it. We began thinking about how to create a more structured, predictable way to help ISV developers ramp up on the latest Microsoft products.
We started out small, creating a new kind of early adopter program for SQL Server 2005, which at the time was code named “Yukon”. Like all programs it needed a name, so we called it Yukon Ascend… as in climbing to the top of a mountain. First, we built deep training content, specifically aimed at developers. We hired some of the best known people in the SQL Server community to help us build that content and deliver that training. This was a bit of a departure from tradition. We thought that tapping into the expertise of independent experts would help make the material less Corporate and scholastic. Our mantra was developers talking to developers. Five days of hardcore, guerilla-style training so deep it made your head hurt. It worked. People wanted more. After beta 2 released, we added labs. Developers could bring their code with them and get advice on break/fix issues or performance. We had an ‘ask the experts’ session at the end of each lab whereby various product team developers would talk to attending dev’s one-on-one.
This continued thru the launch of SQL Server 2005. The response was so positive that we expanded this new approach to other new products. We handled Vista, Windows Server, Visual Studio and Office in the same manner. There were some expected challenges with expanding and scaling the Yukon Ascend model to larger proportions but we managed to work through them and met everyone’s expectations.
The next challenge we faced with Ascend was that it was never intended to serve more than a few hundred partners. To scale out and help more ISV developers, we assumed responsibility for an existing program named Touchdown that was run by another group. We transformed it from a self-serve online experience to something closer to the Ascend model. Over a couple of years, we fine tuned this offering to the point where it closely resembled the experience that Ascend participants enjoyed. That success presented a new problem. We had two early adopter programs with different names that were almost the same.
In July 2007, we launched the combined Ascend and Touchdown programs. Now it was one program. We called it the Metro Early Adopter Program. Metro represented the best practices of its predecessors and more. The votes are coming in now on how this change was received and it’s looking very good. As we approach the second year, in July 2008 Metro goes beyond ISVs, serving additional customer and partner audiences. These are: enterprise customers, leading web sites, ISVs, web agencies, and system integrators. Metro activities are hosted in approximately 25 countries worldwide.
The decision regarding who is invited to Metro is made where it should be - at the local level. We now serve software developers, engineers, and architects. The rationale for a company making a decision to take part in the Metro Early Adopter Program has several dimensions. This could be driven by business imperative, competitive advantage, accelerating the development cycle, reducing time to market, or the benefit of free training, guidance, and support surrounding Microsoft's latest technology. In simple terms, participating companies with a plan to deploy a new solution, build a new app, or rev an existing one get a lot of high quality training, support and other guidance for free.
In keeping with our original vision, the Metro Early Adopter Program is more than a beta. It's offerings are designed to produce a specific outcome - a deployable application or service utilizing the latest Microsoft products and technology - and are aimed at customer and partner organizations who are motivated to achieve that objective within a specific timeframe. We are constantly improving our methods to give the participants what they need to keep pace with new and emerging Microsoft technologies. That’s not a small challenge. There’s much more room for improvement and resting on past success is not our way. We are pretty excited about the prospects for the future and will do our best to keep giving people what they need to keep pace with Microsoft’s newest and most interesting technology.
If you have an interest in learning more about this program, contact your PAM, BDM or Developer Evangelist.
Group Manager, Program Development
Developer and Platform Evangelism