Microsoft: Asia faster to embrace hosted services

More companies in region expected to take up Microsoft's hosted messaging and collaboration products than those in United States, says company exec.

SINGAPORE--Asian businesses will take to Microsoft's hosted messaging and collaboration products more quickly that those in the United States, according to the IT vendor's top executive.

Allison Watson, corporate vice president for Microsoft's worldwide partner group, told ZDNet Asia in an interview that businesses in Asia and Europe are expected to embrace the company's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) product faster than those in the United States.

"We believe the takeup for BPOS will occur faster outside the U.S. market, especially in Asia which [is] used to a more digitally-connected environment," said Watson, who was in town as part of a region-wide series of meetings with the company's Asia-Pacific partners.

BPOS refers to the company's e-mail, Web conferencing and collaboration workspaces products: Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, and Microsoft Office Communications Online.

Watson also touched on how the company's new cloud will impact its partners, where Microsoft last month unveiled its Windows Azure plans to partners at its WPC (Worldwide Partner Conference) event. The platform is set to go on sale in November, but is currently available as a free trial download so partners can build and test products atop the cloud, she said.

The cloud brings new revenue opportunities for Microsoft's partners across different segments, specifically, operators and resellers that now have the option of charging for an ongoing service, over on-premise deployments, she said.

Watson said: "This presents a smoother revenue stream because they can get into the services business. For resellers, it [is about] the opportunity to [sell] to midmarket [customers] because [the cloud] takes care of the backend."

In particular, she said interest has been high among ISVs (independent software vendors) because they can deliver SaaS (software-as-a-service) without the initial capital outlay. A services-based model, too, would provide systems integrators and custom application developers a steady stream of income, Watson pointed out.

She added that last month's debut of the Windows Mobile application catalog helped significantly drive the company's partner network for mobile development. "In terms of the fastest growing sector of development in the partner ecosystem [globally], I would say it's mobile."

She noted that the company is adding support in "huge amounts" for its mobile ecosystem, but that growth of the mobile space is outpacing its efforts.

According to Microsoft, its partner ecosystem accounts for 95 percent of its US$60 billion per annum revenue. In 2005, its WPC event partner contribution was 98 percent, the company said.