Microsoft Channel Chief Responds to Cloud Billing Again

The chatter between Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill, cloud integrators and solutions providers continues. In recent weeks, Roskill has hinted multiple times that he's listening closely to channel feedback regarding Microsoft's cloud billing strategy for Office 365 and Business Productivity Online Suite.

Some partners have expressed concern that Microsoft directly bills end-customers for cloud applications like Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. In stark contrast, rivals like Google Apps allow channel partners to manage end-customer billing.

So what's new? Roskill has sent a five-point email to Redmond Channel Partner on the topic. The upshot: Microsoft is listening closely to partners but the top priority involves getting Office 365 -- the forthcoming successor to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) -- out the door.

Now, a confession: I like Jon Roskill. I think he's responsive to the channel. He accurately points out a bunch of ways VARs can become the partner of record for Microsoft's cloud deployments. He concedes Microsoft isn't perfect. But most of all: I think he's buying time. Sources close to Microsoft tell me there will be more billing-related progress later this year... though those sources stop short of saying partners will control end-customer cloud billing.

Either way, Redmond Channel Partner accurately states that the cloud billing topic has struck a nerve. I suspect only about 5 to 10 percent of Microsoft's channel partners want to manage end-customer cloud billing. But that minority is very vocal. And some have already fled Microsoft and embraced rival hosted Exchange offerings from folks like Intermedia.

Roskill needs to solve this... for partners. And for Microsoft's credibility in the channel.

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