SaaS: Microsoft Preparing BPOS Billing for VARs?
Assuming it’s accurate, the grapevine is treating The VAR Guy particularly well this week. One prime example: Our resident blogger hears Microsoft is testing a syndicated BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) partner program, which may allow resellers to manage SaaS billing for end-customers. Is this a defining moment for Microsoft’s SaaS channel strategy? Or do more hurdles remain? Here’s the scoop.
First, The VAR Guy needs to tip his well-worn hat: Contributing Associate Blogger Matt Weinberger nailed this story, before The VAR Guy muscled in to steal Weinberger’s byline. Sure enough, multiple SaaS pundits say Microsoft is about to make a BPOS billing move, potentially empowering partners to better leverage Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and other on-demand applications.
The VAR Guy isn’t surprised. In March 2010, Microsoft Channel Chief Allison Watson told The VAR Guy that the software giant would continue to refine BPOS, based on partner feedback. Watson shared her SaaS and cloud channel thoughts in this video.
What’s the Story — Today?
Fast forward to the present and a Microsoft spokesperson declines to comment about the alleged BPOS billing news. Here’s what The VAR Guy knows — or claims to know.
Exact details are expected to surface at the Microsoft Hosting Summit on April 28. As part of the announcement, specific BPOS partners will be allowed to manage their own billing for end-customers, according to multiple sources. That’s a key move, since many initial BPOS partners complained that Microsoft controlled all pricing and billing.
Now for the tricky part. In order to differentiate from rival BPOS partners, Microsoft will require each partner to deliver at least one additional bundled service with BPOS.
Sounds intriguing. But plenty of questions and challenges remain. Some VARs remain very upbeat about BPOS, because it provides easy access into the SaaS and recurring revenue markets.
Still, skeptics remain. One source says Microsoft has been beta testing the new service with at least two partners. Another skeptical source says BPOS still involves some key negatives for hosting partners.
The source says: “The reseller, while maintaining a billing relationship with the customer, the reseller still has no control over the offering, support or product differentiation. So in effect, the reseller gets all the responsibility for billing and support — but none of the authority to make a better mousetrap.”
Hmmm… Those are solid points that Microsoft partners will need to consider. Also of note: Microsoft will need to balance the world of BPOS with the world of third-party hosted Exchange providers, where companies like Apptix and Intermedia are showing considerable momentum.
Back to Our Originally Scheduled Program
Meanwhile, The VAR Guy just landed in San Francisco for the Cisco Partner Summit. Stay tuned for plenty of Cisco chatter. And our resident blogger will provide a BPOS update if/when Microsoft makes official announcements on April 28.