But on Friday, Microsoft blogger Mary Jo Foley reported that Microsoft has released a near-final version of BPOS and is getting ready to launch the suite within the next 30 days. Foley included a link to the announcement on the Microsoft Online Services blog, but the link currently isn't functioning.
In an email to ChannelWeb, a Microsoft spokesperson said an engineer on the Microsoft Online Services team who posted details on the impending BPOS launch decided to remove the post Friday morning, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson confirmed that Microsoft has shipped Release Candidate (RC) code for Exchange Online and SharePoint Online standard, and said this signals "the final approach to general availability."
"Microsoft Online Services are on track for their scheduled release by the end of 2008," said the spokesperson, hewing to Microsoft's longstanding timeframe.
BPOS, as the bundle of Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Server, and Office LiveMeeting is known in the channel, will be many Microsoft partners' first foray into the SaaS world.
In July at its Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft announced the commission structure for channel partners that sell BPOS. Microsoft will give 12 percent of the first year's subscription value and 6 percent of the ongoing service fees to partners that sell BPOS.
However, some solution providers balked at the notion of giving up control over their customers to Microsoft, as well as at Microsoft's refusal to allow partners to sell private label services.
As Microsoft moves further into SaaS -- which it defines as a mix of on-premise software and cloud-based services -- VARs will have to shift their business models to find new ways of adding value, especially given the low price points that Microsoft has established for BPOS.
Exchange Online will be priced at $10 per user/month, SharePoint Online per user/month will be $7.25, Office Communications Server Online will be $2.50 per user/month, and LiveMeeting will be $4.50 per user/month. Microsoft will offer these services in one-year automatically renewing agreements.
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