Microsoft has handed resellers the chance to bill customers directly for Office 365 from 1 March, some eight months after the move was unveiled to rapturous applause at the vendor's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in 2012.
This will see Office 365 available to partners on Open and Open Value licensing programmes from next month, according to recently released March price lists.
The current referral model for reselling Office 365 sees partners receive kick-back payments for what they sell, with Microsoft controlling billing.
The much-anticipated move, which the channel had expected to come towards the tail end of 2012, will finally give resellers the chance to set their own margins and bill customers themselves, should they wish.
Westcoat's sales director Alex Tatham claimed the move to transfer billing to the channel will go down well with its resellers.
"It has been long awaited; they announced it at WPC in July and said they would do it, and now they are, but is has taken until now. The channel and distributors have wanted this for some time now because the current referral model means [resellers] lack the element of control and the ability to bundle products and so on," he said.
"The channel are very supportive of this, but there is the chance of significant complication with things such as co-termination clauses, so there is a lot of work to be done to automate that. Generally though, we are very positive about it."
Bechtle's software manager Richard Gibbons was also positive about the move:
He said: "Some partners love Office 365 on Open. Those who offer complete solutions, particularly in the SMB sector, like that it enables them to offer one price for a whole solution that could include hardware, Office 365, services [and] management."
Andy Trish, managing director of reseller NCI said he understood that the Office 365 Open SKU would be different from the Microsoft-only SKU, meaning customers may still be forced to bypass the partner on billing.
He said: "I think it is limiting the market in that if a customer does not want some of the features available from resellers on Open, the only way we can sell what they want is through Microsoft."
Becthle's Gibbons added that the two separate SKUs might cause more confusion for all involved.
Microsoft said specific SKU details are expected nearer the time. The vendor's sales excellence programme manager, Eric Ligman, said the response to the announcement had been "phenomenal" at WPC on his blog.
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