Microsoft will finally allow Office 365 partners to bill end-customers directly for cloud services like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. The Office 365 Open move addresses a major concern for some partners that did not want Microsoft to manage customer cloud billing. Microsoft also increased Office 365 partner margins to 23 percent during the first year of a customer engagement for deals above 150 seats, the company said today at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012 (WPC12) in Toronto.

Office 365 is "exploding in its momentum" and the company is adding 1,000 cloud partners per month, CEO Steve Ballmer said. Recent Office 365 adopters include Lowes; the home improvement center is moving 200,000 users to Office 365. Moreover, Microsoft is opening its arms to cloud services providers -- including Perimeter eSecurity, Rackspace and Savvis -- here at WPC12.

Ballmer sees the Office 365-Windows 8 combo as a huge opportunity for partners. "Windows 8 is the biggest deal for our company in at least 17 years."

To manage Office 365 cloud billing for end customers, partners should check out a new offering called the Office 365 Open program. Also, Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill said other Office 365 billing programs remain in place, including Office 365 syndication services -- which allow big CSPs to wrap additional services around Office 365.

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