SaaS: Microsoft Preps Exchange, SharePoint BPOS Enhacements

Long term, Channel Chief Jon Roskill wants Microsoft to release SaaS and on-premises software upgrades at the same time. But short term, Microsoft is still working to roll-out SaaS versions of Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010, which are widely available as on-premise solutions. Here's an update on the efforts.

As you may recall, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) promotes SaaS applications to partners and end-customers. But for the most part, the BPOS system continues to run older Exchange and SharePoint releases. In recent weeks, some readers have asked The VAR Guy when Microsoft's BPOS team will shift its SaaS focus to Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

A Microsoft spokeswoman replied with the following update:

"We have already started rolling out 2010 capabilities for our largest online customers. We will continue rolling out the 2010 technology to our broad base who can expect a preview of 2010 capabilities later this year."
Hmmm... A preview? Sounds like the official, broad BPOS shift to Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010 will occur late this year or in 2011.

In the meantime, Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill has indicated that roughly 16,000 channel partners now support BPOS applications -- though it sounds like only about 8,000 of those partners have scored two or more BPOS customer engagements.

Hosting Partners Fill the Void

Elsewhere, plenty of Microsoft hosting partners have shifted their own platforms to the latest Exchange and SharePoint releases.

First from the gate was Intermedia, which introduced Hosted Exchange 2010 in late 2009. Several major hosting and SaaS providers now leverage Intermedia's back-end Hosted Exchange 2010 services, though few of those service providers publicly disclose their dependence on Intermedia.

More recently, well-known SaaS specialists like Apptix have also jumped into the hosted Exchange 2010 pool. And cloud software specialist Parallels has been helping more hosting providers to keep their Microsoft applications current.

Future Dollars

But here's the irony: By the time Microsoft shifts BPOS to Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010, it's a safe bet leading VARs and MSPs will be looking to hosting providers for Office Communications Server (OCS) and other unified communications solutions. The reason: Exchange and SharePoint remain immensely popular, but hosted email is a low-margin business -- with prices stabilizing at about $5 per user per month.

Meanwhile, in the OCS world numerous Microsoft partners are launching value-added SaaS services. And there's even talk of an OCS App Store from one Microsoft partner.

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