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MS joins ASP ranks with Office 2000 rental

Will compete with channel partners for (so far) invisible market

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Microsoft is to take another step toward dealing direct and cutting out the channel with the launch of its online rental service next year. The software vendor yesterday outlined its strategy for Office Online -- it will start by leasing Office 2000 over the Net -- and named BT as its chief partner in the UK. Microsoft named 15 partners worldwide, including Micron Electronics and Qwest Communications, and said it was looking for more companies to join the scheme. The only partner so far signed up in the UK is BT. These partners will compete head-to-head with Microsoft, which will push the leasing direct from its Web site. The scheme will start with Office 2000 early next year, but will spread to other software later, said Stephen Uden, Microsoft UK channel strategy manager. It will be aimed at small businesses that don't want to buy software. According to Uden: "This is an opportunity for the whole channel and we want to partner with as many companies as we can." He said the move would not undermine the channel, although obviously Microsoft will be competing with resellers as well as BT for customers. "We don't want to undercut our partners. We will price it to sell, but our partners will be able to add a lot of value to it." Uden said he would like to see all 1500 Microsoft resellers in the UK join the software rental scheme. ®

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