Prepare to Compete with Microsoft
D-day has finally arrived for Microsoft’s partners. Sure, Bill Gates plans to include partners in Microsoft’s new software as a service (SaaS) strategy. But the fact is, many customers may prefer to deal directly with Microsoft for hosted versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint and other emerging Microsoft Online Services. But the news isn’t all bad.
In fact, Microsoft has worked overtime to ensure partners can deliver value-added services to the new Microsoft Online Services family. For a quick rundown of the services and where some early partners plan to fit in, check out our sister site: MSPmentor.net.
Now, for The VAR Guy’s take on the situation. Sure, he’s quick to dismiss Microsoft’s lame desktop software efforts in recent years. But he has great respect for Microsoft’s server team. Unlike the Windows Vista debacle, The VAR Guy thinks Windows Server 2008 will generate upbeat feedback from customers. And he expects a similar outcome with the Microsoft Online Services family.
Exchange Server and SharePoint are the perfect product families to push aggressively into the SaaS market. Dozens of Microsoft partners will continue to add value around those platforms. One smart partner move: Integrate Exchange with Microsoft’s unified communications wares. Another: Find ways to integrate Exchange with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s forthcoming Android platform.
Regardless of the path you choose, chances are you’ll wind up competing with Microsoft from time to time in the SaaS market. Get used to it. The software giant has no choice but to design simple, easy-to-embrace online services that small businesses can activate on their own.
Symantec has already made similar moves with its Symantec Protection Network, a SaaS service that partners can offer to their customers — or customers can sign up for directly.