Microsoft simplifies moving between Office 365 SKUs

Microsoft is offering its reseller partners more carrots to encourage them to sell Microsoft's suite of cloud-hosted apps.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is adding more carrots to its Office 365 hosted-app offering aimed at getting its reseller partners to sell even more of what is currently Microsoft's fastest selling product.


Microsoft announced the changes on July 8, during the opening day of its Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston.

Microsoft partners can now make available to customers Office 365 "transition SKUs" which will enable customers in different Office 365 customer tiers to more seamlessly upgrade to a different set of Office 365 offerings. Before today's announcement, Office 365 midsize customers couldn't move to an Office 365 Enterprise plan without having to migrate all their data out and back into a new tenant.

Another enticement for partners announced today is an addition to the Office 365 Open licensing program. Last year, Microsoft officials announced changes to Office 365 licensing which would allow partners to "own" the customer billing relationship and top-line margins if and when they sold customers Office 365. Microsoft is now adding Exchange Online, government and academic Office 365 SKUs to the Open program, allowing partners to do the same with these SKUs.


There may be more Office 365 licensing changes coming soon, as well. Rob Helm, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft analysts noted via Twitter recently that Microsoft seems to be offering some of its Office 365 SKUs which currently include locally installable versions of Office Pro.

The July Product Rights Use list for volume licensees mentions new subscription licenses available for the Enterprise E3, E4, G3 and G4 plans which may include options for users to get Office 365 without licensing Office 365 Pro Plus.

I've asked Microsoft officials for more details on this new license but have yet to hear back.

Update (July 9): Here's the official response from a company spokesperson on the new product use rights wording:

“The Office 365 Add-ons are not short-term promotional offers, but rather ongoing purchase options for eligible EA (Enterprise Agreement volume-licensing) customers.  Office 365 Add-on SKUs will be available for customers to transact beginning August 1, 2013.  EA customers with CAL suites can purchase Office 365 Add-ons as Additional Products, at any time throughout their EA, with a variety of standalone and suite options available.”

During a session at the Worldwide Partner Conference on July 9, Microsoft officials also noted that hosting partners are going to be able to offer their customers the on-premises Office 365 Pro Plus SKUs under the standalone Open licensing terms. This means partners offering hosted Exchange, Lync and SharePoint also can offer their customers Office 365 Pro Plus -- the on-premises, high-end Office application bundle, too. Hosting partners should be able to do this starting some time in 2014, company officials said.

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