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Microsoft: OK, Office 365 sellers – you can be customers' 'first contact'

All right, partner?

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WPC Microsoft has relinquished more control over the way third-party suppliers can manage Office 365 and Windows InTune punters, finally making the channel the "first point of contact" for customers.

It is now three years since the online productivity suite hit the streets. It took two years until Microsoft would allow third-party suppliers to handle billing, and now, 12 months later, it has taken things a step further.

The Cloud Reseller programme was launched at this week's Worldwide Partner Conference, allowing disties, MSPs, hosting firms and ISVs to charge customers for their techie services as well as Microsoft licences wrapped up in one monthly or annual invoice.

Channel partners will be able to directly provision and manage customer subscriptions though in-product tools housed in the Partner Admin Centre and own the technical support relationship.

A Microsoft mouthpiece told us, "Partners have requested more direct ownership of the customer relationship through billing and a desire to service the customer purchase, management and support experience as the single point of contact."

"Partners are the first point of contact," the spokesman added.

Channel sellers account for three-quarters of Office 365 sales, the firm revealed at WPC.

Initial participation in Cloud Reseller, as it is known locally, will be on an invitation-only basis over the next 12 months. Microsoft has developed a habit of keeping things exclusive - just look at the Surface devices.

It said: "Partners who have interest should consult with their local Microsoft account representative to determine if the programme is being offering in their market and when they will begin or expand their current invitation process."

So that basically means: if your name is not down already on the list, you likely aren't getting in just yet.

Microsoft told us it is targeting partners with systems set up to provide monthly/annual billing, lifecycle management and 24/7 technical support. Not everyone will fit that bill.

No other details on timing could be tickled or otherwise extracted from Microsoft PR people, though Azure, Dynamics CRM Online and other bits in the portfolio are to be added at some point.

In other related cloudy news, Microsoft has confirmed it will retire three as-a-service competencies – Cloud Deployment, Cloud Accelerate and Azure Circle – and replace them with small and market cloud solutions, Cloud Productivity and Cloud Platform certifications.

The three were due to be replaced earlier this year but Microsoft delayed the process after feedback from partners that they were are still adjusting to new-world tech delivery models. ®

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