Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Partner Reality Check

November 29, 2011

2 Min Read
Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Partner Reality Check

By samdizzy


Microsoft announced a range of Office 365 customer wins and cloud enhancements today, but the chatter didn’t mention whether cloud services providers and channel partners were participating in the Office 365 momentum.

First, the official news. According to a blog from Andrew Kisslo, group product manager, Office 365, Microsoft has:

  • Launched Office 365 trials in 22 new markets, extending Office 365’s reach to 63 countries.

  • Added 30 feature enhancements, including support for Lync on Mac; SharePoint Business Connectivity Services; and tighter integration between SharePoint Online and Windows Phone 7.5. Certain SkyDrive updates also make sharing and accessing Office docs easier.

  • Won Office 365 business with with Group Marie-Claire and Campbell Soup Company.

Paul Thurott’s Supersite for Windows notesthat over 90 percent of Office 365 subscribers involve small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. That’s good news for Microsoft, which is aggressively promoting Office 365 to smaller companies.

Office 365 Partners?

But big questions remain, including:

  • What is Office 365’s true installed base? Anecdotal wins are good to hear about, but Microsoft hasn’t said much about its cloud-related revenues during recent earnings call.

  • Are channel partners engaged? Kisslo didn’t mention if channel partners were helping to drive the recent Office 365 customer wins.

  • Telco partners? Microsoft also didn’t say if more telcos and service providers have signed up to become Office 365 syndicators. Office 365 syndicators basically resell Office 365 while wrapping additional services around Microsoft’s cloud suite. Those value-added services allow syndicators to manage billing and pricing for Office 365, a luxury and Microsoft partner perk that traditional VARs and MSPs lack.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for an update on each of those points. A spokeswoman for the company is reviewing our questions and plans to loop back with Talkin’ Cloud.Microsoft launched Office 365 as the successor to BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) in June 2011. The Office 365 suite, starting at about $6 per user per month, can include applications like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync — a unified communications platform that will ultimately evolve into a full-blown hosted PBX.

Generally speaking, I think Office 365 will gradually become a very successful cloud platform, especially in businesses that no longer want to manage on-premise Exchange servers. But Office 365 has hit some bumps and suffered a few outages since launching, and some partners remain wary of Office 365 since Microsoft handles the billing and pricing relationship with end-customers.

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