Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) hopes to lift Office 365 cloud sales at least 40 percent in the software company's fiscal 2013. Moreover, Talkin' Cloud now believes more and more channel partners are warming up to Office 365 -- the company's SaaS platform for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and more.

Steve Deming, a Microsoft Partner Technology Advisor, mentioned the Office 365 sales growth goal during the Tech Data (NASDAQ: TECD) TDCloud Partner Summit, which was held January 11-12, near Tampa, Fla.

More Numbers?

How is Microsoft performing against that goal? Clues could emerge January 24, when the company announces Q2 2013 results -- though Microsoft hasn't said much previously about Office 365 revenues. (More Windows 8 sales details could also emerge during that earnings call, notes The VAR Guy.)

Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill, meanwhile, last year hinted that the company already is the world's top provider of cloud software -- noting that many third-party cloud services providers (CSPs) offer hosted Exchange, SharePoint and more. 

Office 365 Perspectives

During a Microsoft-led session at Tech Data's conference last week, nearly 100 VARs and MSPs took notes and asked questions about profiting from Office 365.

Deming's presentation showed just how far Microsoft has come in the past year. For much of 2011 and portions of 2012, a portion of Microsoft's channel partner base rejected Office 365 -- worrying that the software giant would use cloud services to sell directly to end-customers.

But Microsoft seems to be turing the corner with partners. During the Tech Data event last week, most attendee questions indicated that partners wanted tips and guidance for driving Office 365 customer enagements. And each time, Deming stepped up to the microphone with answers.

Still, Office 365's evolution will likely hit some more speed bumps. Sometime within the next few weeks, Microsoft is expected to unveil updates that include Office 365 Open -- which allows partners to set prices and manage end-customer billing for the cloud suite. Microsoft has indicated that the Open initiative will go live by June 2013 or sooner.

On the potential downside: The Microsoft SaaS changes also include eight different SKUs for Office 365 -- which means partners and customers could become confused about which cloud suite to embrace. In my humble opinion, Microsoft needs fewer (not more) cloud SKUs.

The new Office 365 Open effort essentially counters the Goole Apps for Business Reseller Program, which already offers end-customer billing capabilities to channel partners.