Microsoft's Small-Biz Bundle

Customers are expected to buy the software direct, but until March they can designate a partner to whom Microsoft will write a check for underwriting services. The amount can range up to $10,000 if the customer buys Small Business Server plus 75 of the new small-business SKUs.

The cost of the new SKU is about $922, compared with $1,200 if the components are bought separately.

“This is a sort of Enterprise Agreement for small businesses, bringing with it all the services and upgrade rights of Software Assurance,” said Cindy Bates, general manager of Microsoft&s U.S. Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners Group.

Enterprise Agreements, or EAs, are Microsoft volume licenses, typically covering three years of product upgrades and fixes.

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The new SKU includes the small-business edition of Office.

Consultants that do not resell software could reap services revenue via the promotion. “I&m either fixing their old stuff or implementing their new stuff. I work either way,” said John Nicolau, general partner at VantagePoint Partners, an IT consultant in Glenview, Ill.

The services money can be spent to educate customers on features and functions of Office and then implement them, Nicolau said.

“Maybe you don&t deploy rights management right away. But when some killer app comes and you want to take advantage of [Windows] RMS [Rights Management Services], you already have it—and I take it off the shelf and deal with it,” he said.

Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., will track license and compliance issues, a fact that pleases some partners but worries others who think the vendor is tightening ties to customers at their expense.