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No Promises on Office 365 Open Availability Before July 2013

A new partner-billing option for Office 365 may not be available until next July.

Microsoft announced the Office 365 Open License at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July. The news that Microsoft partners' most common request was being addressed met with a very positive response from the WPC keynote audience. Microsoft executives offered no timeframe for the change in the announcement.

In response to a question about availability from RCP, a Microsoft spokesperson said via e-mail, "Office 365 Open will be available before July 2013."

Office 365 Open is designed to work the same way as the Microsoft Open License. A partner can purchase a key for the service through the Open License and resell the key to a customer. Partners will be able to bundle the Office 365 cloud productivity suite with other services, set their own price and determine their own billing timetable.

Whenever it takes effect, Office 365 Open should settle what has been the single biggest controversy in the Microsoft channel for the last few years. Microsoft previously only allowed strategic partners, such as its syndication partners, to handle billing for Office 365 and its predecessor, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

For the vast majority of partners, monthly billing was handled through a direct billing relationship between Microsoft and the customer. Partners needed to get customers to sign them up as the Partner of Record in order to qualify for advisor fees. While partners won't get advisor fees for customers that they sign up under Office 365 Open, they can continue to use the advisor fee business model for some or all of their customers if they choose. Microsoft also announced changes to the advisor fee model at WPC that took effect immediately -- lowering baseline fees and increasing fees for increasing volume.

Meanwhile, it's possible that Microsoft is aiming for earlier availability on Office 365 Open but leaving itself some wiggle room with the July 2013 date. Partners have told RCP that Microsoft privately has been saying Office 365 Open should be available in the March timeframe.

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Posted by Scott Bekker on August 27, 2012 at 11:58 AM


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