The Microsoft Windows 8 team, led by Peter Han (pictured), and major PC makers and industry leaders (Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo, among others) are stepping into the spotlight right now at Tech Data (NASDAQ: TECD) Channel Link, a gathering of 500 resellers today in Orlando, Fla. What will Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) say about the new operating system and tablet strategy? The VAR Guy has a front-row seat for the conversation. Stay tuned to this live blog, which will be updated every few minutes.

The guest speakers include:
Microsoft is expected to ship Windows 8 on October 26. PC vendors here at the conference have set up demo booths to describe their hardware strategies, mobile initiatives and Windows 8 objectives.

Tech Data Channel Link Main Session
  • Kicking things off is Joe Quaglia, senior VP, US marketing and president, TDMobility
  • Objective of the conference is to make sure resellers are at the forefront of the most transformative time in the industry's history.
  • More than 90  technology vendors are at the conference.
  • Quaglia mentioned a series of Tech Data executives who are on-hand at the conference.
On Stage Now: The Windows 8 Discussion and Microsoft's Peter Han
  • Han will focus on Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, & Office 2013. He's been on the road at HP, Lenovo in recent days, and is heading to TigerDirect tomorrow in Miami.
  • "Despite the pressures, despite the challenges" Han said there are tremendous opportunities ahead.
  • Screens that are 7 inches or larger: That's Microsoft's definition of PCs -- tablets (slates), notebooks, PCs, etc.The U.S. market will grow 23 percent for such devices in 2013. "Certainly tablets are a big part of that."
  • Han is making the case that refresh cycles -- including major Windows launches -- unlock huge opportunities for VARs. He said nearly 50 percent of the US Commercial business market runs Windows XP. Roughly 1 in 4 business PCs are turned over per year. But in recent years, installed base refreshes slowed down because of a bad economy. As a result, businesses will make a major PC refresh move with Windows 8, he asserted. "We are primed; there is a huge base of devices that are waiting to be refreshed."
  • There are 100 million-plus Windows XP installations in the U.S. Time to refresh them to Windows 8, he asserted.
  • The best solution for SMBs is Windows 8 Pro, he asserted.
  • Getting it all done: He pitched Office and line of business applications being available on Windows 8. On slates -- i.e., tablets -- those applications are available on Windows 8.
  • Protecting your business and taking control: Here, Han pointed to security and manageability.
  • "We're working very hard on applications." The Windows Store will launch in connection with Windows 8, he said.
  • "It's not just about the product quality. Microsoft will put an unprecidented 10-digit dollar number that we will put into [marketing] at launch. We are expecting 1.6 billion impressions over the next six months. At least 5 impressions for every man, woman and child in the United states."
  • What keeps Han up at night: "For me personally, it's my three kids. That aside, what actually keeps me up at night is the fear that we're too cavalier for this. We're too cool for school. Realize that this isn't just another year. This is a year when Microsoft isn't just talking big. We're investing big."
Windows Server 2012, also from Peter Han
  • There are 27 million small businesses that lack servers today.
  • Windows Server's installed base is 18 million units, a prime upgrade opportunity.
  • Han also pointed to virtualization and storage opportunities for Windows Server 2012.
Onstage soon: Intel and Lenovo discussing Ultrabooks and more
Later today:
  • A sit-down with Tech Data executives who focus on TDCloud, mobility and additional Tech Data strategies.