Microsofts recently announced Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is much more than a challenge to Google Apps, playing as it does to organisations from five persons to millions, and allowing a combination of in-house and hosted deployment the so-called software plus services model. The release of BPOS is very timely, offering guaranteed availability and with well thought out functionality. However, there is still some work to do on the product that might make it appear like a beta release in the eyes of a CIO.
Mix n match for customers and partners
The BPOS hosted products are: Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Server and LiveMeeting. This package is priced at $15 per seat per month and organisations can subscribe to additional facilities such as archiving.
But this is not just cloud-based services like Google Apps, although that offering is definitely a threat that Microsoft wants to see off. Rather it is a software plus service offering that gives organisations that have the IT support infrastructure and wish to retain in-house capability the option to have their BPOS services linked to the corporate servers to provide an anywhere information service for employees, partners or customers.
In support of Microsofts ubiquitous access to information message, Microsoft is emphasising the use of mobile devices such as smartphones to access the BPOS services. The IT manager of one launch customer, Medway Plastics, stated during the launch call that he could manage the BPOS service from his smartphone. Of course, his is Windows-based and Microsoft admits it has work to be done to provide access from the RIM BlackBerry, which remains a pilot project. Another launch customer was pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline, an organisation of 100,000 employees across 100 countries, which claims it will save 30% on software costs by deploying BPOS.
BPOS is definitely a product geared around Microsofts partner network, with value-added resellers receiving 12 per cent of the subscription value for the first year and 6 per cent of annual service fees thereafter. Disappointingly, for those partners harbouring aspirations to manage the total customer relationship, Microsoft will undertake direct customer billing.
A major attraction for companies that may be tempted to sit on the fence for software plus services is the guaranteed 99.9 per cent monthly uptime with cash refunds if not delivered.
The Deskless Worker the next opportunity
Continuing the ubiquity message, later in the year there is to be a BPOS Deskless Worker SKU, which basically offers cut-down Exchange and SharePoint functionality for companies that only require intermittent access to information and email. This will be priced at a budget $3 per use per month. Microsoft believes this would suit anyone who needs email and basic file sharing but not a full-featured and full-priced client.
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