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June 16, 2011
Microsoft Office 365, the successor to the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), is scheduled for general availability June 28, 2011. There’s considerable pre-launch chatter. Some VARs and MSPs are gearing up for Office 365. But some beta testers are worried about potential limitations with the cloud suite.
Office 365 includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and a cloud version of Microsoft Office. Roughly 28 percent of Talkin’ Cloud 50 survey participants already offer Microsoft BPOS to their customers, and we suspect that figure will grow with Office 365’s arrival. Still, Office 365 has a few potential limitations that TalkinCloud is watching closely.
The limitation TalkinCloud hears most about is the inability to set how often a Microsoft Office 365-connected POP3 mailbox is refreshed: Forum administrators have confirmed to those expressing the concern that yes, mailboxes are checked once per hour by default and there’s no way to change it. Speaking as an e-mail addict, that’s at least 59 times per hour too little.
Furthermore, some users are reporting issues with the mobile versions of their public-facing SharePoint Online sites, with some devices displaying a login screen and nothing else. Microsoft said it’s working on a fix. We believe that’s a substantial issue for numerous users.
The forums list additional problems and glitches users are experiencing (take a look for yourself if you’re curious), though TalkinCloud certainly realizes that forums are a gathering place for user complaints that frequently lead to fixes.
Already, scores of MSPs and VARs widely offer services like hosted Exchange and hosted SharePoint. But it could take a few years before Microsoft’s hosted Unified Communications business — built around Microsoft Lync Online — potentially gains critical mass.
A key indicator: A new survey conducted by Osterman Research on behalf of the Azaleos indicates that only 10 percent of IT decision makers are interested in cloud-related unified communications. The survey participants mentioned uptime, security and customization concerns. And when asked which provider they’d go with if they had to make a public cloud move, only one-third of the survey respondents said Office 365. But 48 percent of those who said they wouldn’t move UC to the public cloud said they’d consider a private cloud option.
Still, a lengthy list of cloud companies — everyone from Microsoft to Parallels to Intermedia — continues to invest in hosted Unified Communications, taking a long-term view of the market opportunity rather than hoping for an overnight sensation.
No doubt, Microsoft is working to address additional issues before Office 365 officially launches June 28. Office 365 already seems like it’s moved forward a bit from when I tried it out (though I came away unimpressed at the time).
Generally speaking, Office 365 seems to be driving channel partners into four camps…
True Believers: Those who plan to promote the SaaS applications to end-customers, focusing aggressively on consulting and integration revenues rather than small recurring revenue opportunities.
Classic Resellers: Those who plan to offer Office 365 simply as a check-mark offering to end-customers.
Curious Observers: Those who are watching Office 365 from the sideline while developing cloud strategies that won’t compete head-on with Microsoft’s low-cost suite. This camp simply doesn’t see enough revenue and margin opportunity in Office 365.
Staunch Critics: Those who feel alienated because Microsoft won’t permit partners to manage end-customer cloud billing, Though there are signs that distributors, cloud syndicates and cloud aggregators may ultimately assist VARs and MSPs with the end-customer billing opportunity.
TalkinCloud will offer deeper details on those four camps within the next few days.
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