Local Microsoft customers and partners will have to wait until next year before they can make use of the new online services the vendor launched in the US last month.
Microsoft has extended its online services to businesses of all sizes in a limited beta trial in the US. This follows the global launch of Microsoft Online Services for businesses with more than 5000 users last September.
The new services include Exchange Online and SharePoint Online – essentially web-based versions of Exchange Server 2007 and Office SharePoint Server 2007 – which allow users to access email, calendaring, contacts, shared workspaces along with web and videoconferencing over the web.
The services should be available locally in 2009, though this wait gives Microsoft more time to tweak the services for the New Zealand market, says Nick Fletcher, partner group manager for sales and marketing.
“We can learn from [how the services are offered in the US] and ensure we realise their potential here.”
Microsoft partners can also use this time to help their customers understand the value of hosted services, says Fletcher.
He adds the online services would reduce the initial cost for users to access Microsoft software, as they can be deployed at a lower cost since hardware and implementation requirements are reduced.
This would create new business opportunities for the channel, says Fletcher.
“Smaller customers do not have huge IT budgets. There would be opportunities for partners to develop beachheads into customers at a relatively low cost. They can then deploy additional services.”
Less deployment work would also allow partners that are under-resourced due to the current skills shortage, to take on projects they would otherwise not have been able to, says Fletcher.
The services bring into focus the software-plus-services strategy Microsoft outlined at its worldwide partner conference in Denver last year, says Fletcher. “It makes what we saw at the conference more tangible.”
The services present more opportunities for local hosting providers, he adds. “We have a strong local community of hosting partners. Microsoft is now throwing services into this area – CRM [Online] fully sits in that partner hosted area.”
Fletcher expects an announcement to be made around local availability of the services at the time of the company’s next partner conference in Houston in July.
Meanwhile, Microsoft last month made a beta version of a new web-based extension of Microsoft Office available worldwide.
Microsoft Office Live Workspace gives users online access to their Microsoft Office documents such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and now includes features like an activity panel, notifications, direct links and multifile upload.