Telenor, a major mobile service provider in Europe, plans to offer Microsoft Office 365 syndication services in January 2013. The long-term goal is for Telenor to wrap its own mobile services around Microsoft's cloud suite.

Telenor is the latest in a growing list of Office 365 syndication partners. Companies such as Dell, Sprint and Verizon also announced Office 365 syndication services in recent months.

Microsoft has spent the past year or so trying to advance this so-called syndication strategy. The idea is for Microsoft to host Office 365, while telecom companies, broadband providers, and mobile providers wrap additional services around the suite. Parallels, a cloud software provider, is often the secret sauce between the Office 365 syndication agreements.

The Upside

According to a Microsoft presentation viewed by Talkin' Cloud, the Office 365 syndication services benefit partners in the following ways:

  • Microsoft provides the SaaS applications
  • The partner delivers Tier 1 and Tier 2 support
  • The partner bills the customer -- a key capability that traditional VARs won't gain until Office 365 Open arrives.
  • The combine offering is Office 365 plus the partner's value-added subscription services.
  • The partner sets the end-customer prices and bills for those services.
  • The partner can leverage co-branding with Microsoft.
  • The partner owns the customer and has the rights to resell units of service licensed from Microsoft.
  • Microsoft sells services to partner at wholesale prices
  • Certain discounts apply based on certain performance metrics.
  • Microsoft offers varlus partner support services.

The Challenge

Microsoft has signed Office 365 syndication agreements with numerous service providers worldwide. By casting such a wide net, Microsoft ensures that small, midsize and large businesses can easily find Office 365 partners. But with so many partners now in the room:

  • Can big service providers really differentiate their offerings from each other?
  • And how will customers decide whether to buy Office 365 from a VAR, a syndication partner or directly from Microsoft?
  • And don't forget there's yet another option for customers who want Microsoft applications in the cloud: Hosting providers that run Microsoft's applications in their own data centers, rather than syndicating Office 365 from Microsoft's data centers.

The Telenor agreement suggests Microsoft continues to march forward with the syndication services. I'm just not sure how many end-customers are embracing the approach.