Microsoft Hosting Partner Program: Comcast Wins Big?

comcast-microsoft-communication-services-hosting-partner-programPlenty of managed service providers want to host Microsoft applications or push into software as a service (SaaS). Now, there's a partner program -- called Microsoft Communication Services -- to help MSPs get started. The big question: Is the partner program designed for smaller MSPs? Or does it funnel more recurring revenue opportunities to Comcast? Here's the scoop from The VAR Guy.

As MSPmentor and TheVARguy.com have noted, the first day of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC09) focused mostly on Office 2010 and Windows 7 opportunities. The crowd -- and The VAR Guy -- have been waiting anxiously for Microsoft to make some hosting- and MSP-related announcements. That move finally came today (July 14), with Microsoft Communication Services' launch.

According to an official company statement, Microsoft Communication Services is:

"a partner program to help hosting providers and their resellers market hosted unified communications to small and midsize business (SMB) customers. Microsoft Communication Services provides a common set of marketing collateral and the ability to utilize the Microsoft brand beyond individual product brands for better recognition in the SMB marketplace. The initiative is open to Microsoft partners that have attained the Hosting Solutions competency, part of the broader Microsoft Partner Network."
Microsoft says John Zanni, GM of the Worldwide Software plus Services Industry team for the Communications Sector at Microsoft, will outline Microsoft Communication Services and its benefits to hosting providers and their resellers in a software-plus-services breakout session today titled “Bringing It All Together Across MS Online Services, Partner Hosted and Windows Azure.”

Who Profits?

Now, the big question. Will smaller MSPs start hosting Microsoft applications under this new partner program? Or will small MSPs merely be resellers for large hosting providers?

Here's an interesting twist. Microsoft Communication Services was designed with Comcast...
"to help enable service providers to offer higher-margin services, create customer loyalty and become a trusted advisor. Collateral and guidance focuses on marketing a solution of collaborative hosted services, including hosted Microsoft Exchange Server, Hosted Windows SharePoint Services, Microsoft Office Communications Server and Microsoft Office Live Meeting. Microsoft-branded collateral includes demo videos, marketing guidance and telesales scripts."
Does that mean Comcast is helping smaller hosting providers to host Microsoft applications on their own? Or is Comcast positioned as a key hosting provider that Microsoft hopes resellers will support? Hmmm. The VAR Guy will need to ponder that question a bit longer.

Plus, our resident blogger has to check in with successful hosting providers and MSPs -- hosted and managed Exchange veterans like Azaleos and Intermedia come to mind -- for their thoughts. Finally, our resident blogger has meetings with the Windows Azure and Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) teams today (July 14) and July 15. So, our resident blogger will be back soon with more thoughts.

The VAR Guy blogs daily on his own site. Follow MSPmentor via RSS, Facebook, Identi.ca and Twitter. Subscribe to our Enewsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center.
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