Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has extended its 2012 Solutions Incentive Program (SIP) for partners by roughly six months. Current incentives were set to expire June 30, 2012. But the current SIP program has been extended to run through Dec. 31, 2012. Microsoft continues to inspire partners to promote management and virtualization solutions, application platforms, Windows and Lync. Hey, what's that: Lync? For Microsoft partners late to the Lync game it's time to get moving.

First, the basic news. Through the Solution Incentive Program (SIP), partners can earn rewards for your investments in specific solution areas and in Microsoft gold competencies. Ross Brown, WPG VP for Partner Strategy at Microsoft, announced the SIP deadline extension in a blog post.

Is the extension good news or bad news for Microsoft partners? Frankly, The VAR Guy doesn't know. On the one hand, maybe some partners were running a bit behind on their anticipated SIP goals. On the other, maybe the current SIP program has been going so well that there was no need for an immediately deadline.

Either way, The VAR Guy keeps coming back to this conclusion: Of all the potential Microsoft bets partners can make, the safest long-term growth bet likely involves Lync, Microsoft's unified communications and presence system.

Lync revenue grew more than 30 percent during Microsoft's Q2 2012, noted Tom Arbuthnot's Lync'd Up blog. Toss in Skype opportunities, and Lync should grow into a multi-billion-dollar opportunity for Microsoft's channel partner ecosystem within the next few years, The VAR Guy believes.

In the meantime, a growing number of cloud services providers (CSPs) are launching hosted Lync 2010 services. Examples include SherWeb, plus NextUC and SIPCOM.

For Microsoft VARs and CSPs still sitting on the Lync sidelines, The VAR Guy wonders: What are you waiting for, especially with Solution Incentive Program (SIP) perks in place...