Prediction: Microsoft Will Change Cloud Billing Policy for Partners

Prediction: Microsoft Will Change Cloud Billing Policy for Partners

Rewind to December 2010. MSPmentor's most-read story of the month involved a cloud billing debate between Microsoft and channel partners. Some Microsoft partners say they want to control cloud billing to end-customers, but Microsoft has yet to introduce such a capability. Fast forward to late 2011 or early 2012, and I suspect Microsoft's Office 365 cloud platform will eventually allow channel partners to control end-customer billing. Here's why.

First, the chatter: In recent weeks, Microsoft Channel Chief has stated at least three times that he's listing carefully to partners that are requesting cloud billing capabilities for end customers -- though Microsoft hasn't announced such a capability. The cloud billing debate has popped up on multiple blog and media sites, such as TalkinCloud (MSPmentor's sister site), Redmond Channel Partner and Larry Walsh's Channelnomics.

Regardless of where you stand in the debate here are the two most basic facts to consider:

  • First, Microsoft must ensure Office 365 -- the forthcoming successor to Business Productivity Online Suite -- has a smooth launch in 2011. So I doubt Microsoft will introduce end-customer cloud billing to small VARs and MSPs in the near term. In my mind, the capability would add too large a variable to the Office 365 launch.
  • Second, Google Apps already supports end-customer billing capabilities to channel partners. And some Google Apps channel partners -- such as MMY Consulting -- say their business is booming. So in my mind Microsoft MUST eventually match that Google Apps channel partner feature -- but not before Office 365 is proven to be stable and scalable.
Quick math: Office 365 is slated to launch sometime this year. So I suspect Microsoft won't try to beta test end-customer cloud billing with small VARs and MSPs until late 2011 or early 2012. Officially, Microsoft has not disclosed or confirmed such a beta test. But my gut says it's coming.

Competition with Google Apps demands it.

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