Microsoft's plan to pilot test an Office 2007 referral payment program with a limited number of large system builders has some smaller partners miffed. The Referral Payment Pilot Program for Office Ready, which begins Jan. 30, is open to large system builders that pre-install the Microsoft Office Ready image on PCs sold to resellers. Once end users activate the license on their systems, the system builder then receives a referral payment, according to a document viewed by CRN. As part of the program, partners are assigned a unique Referral Tracking Code (RTC) during enrollment that's injected into their pre-installed Microsoft Office Ready PC. When a customer activates a license, the partner will be assigned a credit through that system, the document said. Enrollment began Jan. 2.
Microsoft executives acknowledged that the pilot initially will be available only to some large system builders, but they said that if the program works, it may be rolled out to the entire channel within months. Those selected to participate in the pilot will likely see a higher attach rate of Office sales, which has always been a sore spot for the channel, according to industry observers. "We have not heard about Microsoft's offering of referral dollars to system builders for getting Office 2007 activations," said James Huang, marketing director at Amax Information Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder. "If it is true, it will be another way for system builders to earn more revenue from Microsoft product sales."