Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program isn't just for huge corporations with thousands of users. Many smaller companies get a chance to participate -- and they're only too happy to get the sort of insider access and extra attention that's typically reserved for the big guys.
John-Mark Tucker, an IT manager at Red Dot Corp. in Seattle, said he was flattered to see a business with 500 employees get invited to the same events on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash., as companies such as Siemens, Texaco Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. "When you're in these programs, you actually do have a real effect on the end product," Tucker said.
Red Dot's initial TAP experience was restricted to the use of a couple machines during the tail end of the testing phase for Windows Server 2003, after a third-party consulting firm recommended the company to Microsoft. The maker of heating and air conditioning systems enjoyed the program so much that it signed on early for the TAP for Windows XP Service Pack 2.
Tucker said Red Dot is participating in TAPs for Windows Vista and its Network Access Protection feature. The company's IT staff is starting with Vista on eight to 10 machines but plans to expand the rollout to about 50 PCs toward the end of this year or early next year, when the next major Vista beta arrives. Within six months of the final release, Red Dot expects to have half of its 170 workstations on Vista, Tucker added.
Ping Inc., a Phoenix-based golf equipment manufacturer that has just under 1,000 employees and about 500 PCs, joined the TAP process for Windows Server 2003 in the fourth quarter of 2002, in connection with a migration from Novell Inc.'s NetWare to Windows for file-and-print, e-mail and application servers.
"Normally, a company our size doesn't have much political pull with a vendor," said David Chacon, a technical services manager at Ping, which is a subsidiary of Karsten Manufacturing Corp. "This gave us a little leverage."
Chacon noted that having consultants from Microsoft and outside firms on hand to help with the shift from NetWare Directory Services to Active Directory was a significant benefit, as Ping's IT staff worked to gain Windows skills. "Going from NetWare to Windows would have been a huge cost for us to bear on our own," he said.
But although Ping will consider participating in future TAPs, it won't be rushing to join the Windows Vista program. "We just need a little bit of a breather," Chacon said. "You have to analyze the opportunity and see how it fits with your business goals."