Can MSPs Host Microsoft Office?

When Office 2010 ships, Microsoft will blur the lines between on-premise and Software as a Service (SaaS) productivity suites. A case in point: Office Web -- the "lightweight Web browser versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote" -- will be available for customers to host on their own. Smart move -- but where do managed service providers fit in the picture?

First, the official news: During the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 (WPC09), Microsoft said:

"Office Web applications will be available in three ways: through Windows Live, where more than 400 million consumers will have access to Office Web applications at no cost; on-premises for all Office volume licensing customers including more than 90 million Office annuity customers; and via Microsoft Online Services, where customers will be able to purchase a subscription as part of a hosted offering."
It's a rather interesting move, considering some competitive settings:
It begs the question: Will Microsoft allow channel partners to offer/host Office Web on their own? "It's one of the things we continue to think about," says Takeshi Numoto, corporate VP, Office Product Management Group, Microsoft.

The VAR Guy's spin: Sounds like Microsoft doesn't plan to allow partners to host Office Web directly. But stay tuned. The VAR Guy wonders if Microsoft will change its tune as large service providers -- particularly those that support K-12 schools and universities -- increasingly offer SaaS to customers.

In the meantime, some VARs and managed service providers have found ways to offer Microsoft Office as a subscription service to customers. A prime example involves AllenPort of New Jersey.

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