At Best Buy (symbol: BBY), the retailer's Geek Squad business is preparing to launch a managed services partner program targeting the SMB market. Longer term, Geek Squad also is preparing to offer SMBs such potential cloud services as hosted Exchange, hosted SharePoint, ActiveSync, cloud-based backup and hosted desktops.

Although yet to be officially announced, the Geek Squad cloud services for small businesses will involve a closer working relationship between Geek Squad and mindSHIFT -- an MSP and cloud services provider that Best Buy acquired in 2011.

Geek Squad this week is expected to announce its managed services partner program at the Channel Partners conference in Las Vegas. But longer term, Geek Squad will tap into mindSHIFT to push into cloud services, noted Al Afflitto, a strategic partnerships manager at Best Buy and Geek Squad. Afflito did not mention a potential launch date or timing for the potential Geek Squad cloud services.

For small VARs and MSPs, the market for horizontal SaaS applications -- hosted email, collaboration, etc. -- is becoming increasingly crowded. And it might be difficult for small channel partners to match the pricing power and scalability of Geek Squad and mindSHIFT, backed by Best Buy. With those thoughts in mind, industry pundits are telling small channel partners to go vertical or to focus on specific higher-margin services in the cloud.

Still, mindSHIFT itself has tried to avoid pricing wars in the cloud. After all, Best Buy acquired mindSHIFT with an eye toward higher-margin IT services and recurring revenues.