Microsoft is expecting PC repair shops and VARs in the low end of the channel to promote use of its Office Live business application suite to SOHOs and small to midsized businesses without servers.
The Redmond, Wash., software company released Office Live from beta Nov. 15 with three available editions: Office Live Basic, a free, advertising-supported version with a domain name, up to 25 e-mail accounts (advertisers such as American Express Open Business, Sprint, CDW and Best Buy are interested in the targeted audience); Office Live essentials, at $20 per month, adds Office Live Business Contact Manager, (or "CRM light," according to a Microsoft executive); and Office Live Premiums, at $40 per month, adds 25 additional e-mail accounts and more Internet-based applications.
The line is aimed at businesses with 10 employees or fewer, those not ready for a server and those able to benefit from its emulation, said Baris Cetinok. Microsofts director of project management and marketing for Office Live.
"The target audience is the unmanaged group, the unmanaged space, where you dont have an IT organization, either in house or for contract," Cetinok said. "Theyre either repurposing consumer technologies or trying to repurpose software that was designed to be managed by an IT professional. How do we lower the barrier of entry for this group, which is actually a majority of the businesses in fluent societies, including the U.S.? They are the backbone of the economy."
Microsoft is expecting the computer repair shops, Web designers and "screwdriver guys" who make house calls to small offices/home offices and sole proprietor businesses to evangelize the SAAS (software as a service) offering to drive adoption among their customers in the early stages, Cetinok said.
"Its the registered level of partners we see as the sweet spot [for early adopters]," Cetinok said. "Its the guys who make house calls who want to extend their offering."
Going forward, Cetinok sees room for customization, especially among ISVs that will choose to use Office Live as an extension of their application to the Web in about 12 months.
About 100 partners are already using it as the third leg of a solution to bring information offsite, including DinerWare, makers of a restaurant POS (point-of-sale) solution, which used Office Live as a reporting environment to give managers access to information on the restaurant floor.
The manufacturer is also working toward a hybrid solution between Office Live and on-premise solutions, "for the customer who says, I want to use e-mail and Web hosting from Office Live; however, I want to run CRM on premise. Or I want to run Exchange on premise, but use Web hosting and other features on the Web," Cetinok said.
"Office Live is a platform investment, a building platform for partners to customize," he said. "What were shipping out of the box … is trying to hit the most common, horizontal pain points like time management, project management, etc. But if you have a remodeling business that does kitchens versus a dental practice, youre going to have different needs. Thats where partners come in."