July 16, 2012
Cloud InvoicingIn the Microsoft Office 365 vs. Google Apps cloud showdown, here’s an interesting twist: Microsoft will gradually allow partners to manage invoicing and end-customer cloud billing. But a lot of people don’t realize: Google Apps already offers that capability to partners.
Indeed, Microsoft Office 365 is playing catch-up vs. Google Apps on the cloud partner billing front.
During Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012 (WPC12), the software giant announced the Office 365 Open initiative — which finally allows partners to bill customers for Microsoft’s Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Link Online and more.
Many partners applaud the move. But Office 365 Open faces key questions. Plus, Microsoft says it will take about a year (until July 2013) to offer partners end-customer cloud billing capabilities on an international basis. The Google Apps Authorized Reseller program already offers such capabilities.
Office 365: Stability, Scalability Were Top Priorities
In Microsoft’s defense, the company has spent the past year making sure Office 365 (formerly Business Productivity Online Suite, or BPOS), is stable, reliable and scalable. Now that Microsoft insiders are comfortable with Office 365 progress, the company is ready to give partners the cloud billing capabilities they’ve been demanding.
For some partners, the ability to bill customers for cloud services is extremely important. The billing capability gives partners peace of mind as they strive to remain extremely close to customers amid the cloud computing wave. With Microsoft managing the billing, some partners feared, customers would increasingly work directly with Microsoft.
Still, market experts have told VARs, MSPs and other channel partners to focus less on the cloud billing debate and more on the cloud integration opportunities. Gartner VP Tiffani Bova, for instance, says customers that adopt more than four cloud applications will need channel partners to help integrate those systems. Hence the rise of s0-called cloud brokers and cloud aggregator services.
Bottom line: Microsoft seems like it’s really committed to doing right by partners. But ironically, Google Apps beat Microsoft to the cloud billing partner punch long ago.
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