On Sunday, Microsoft said it was moving towards the idea of opening up its online business applications so that its partners can directly bill their customers. Up to now, Microsoft has sought to retain some control over any transactions taking place between customers and resellers.
The issue is important for the development of Microsoft's software-as-a-service (SaaS) strategy, which Microsoft prefers to call Software plus Services (S+S) . This is the delivery method for Microsoft's business productivity online suite (BPOS)
Shannon Day, director of Microsoft's S+S program told CRN and the Xchabge conference in New Orleans on Saturday that, "there is definitely a movement afoot to let you resell services, and you would own the paper and agreement with the customer."
In other words, the resellers would retain control over any agreements with customers. This is potentially a good thing for customers as well as resellers since customers will be buying the software through resellers and it should mean there are clear lines of responsibility. For customers, if they are unhappy, they can go after the reseller rather than having to tackle a company as large as Microsoft.
The Microsoft BPOS bundles hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Server, and LiveMeeting.
"This underlines the point that there is no gorilla in the market for SaaS," said analyst Jon Collins of Freeform Dynamics. "Microsoft would like to be that gorilla, but it isn't. Nobody is and that is what makes this an interesting market."
What we are seeing now, said Collins, is "a number of companies like Microsoft and Salesforce and others, all trying to see how much of this market they could own".