Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will launch Office 365 cloud updates for business customers on Feb. 27, 2013. The updates may include Office 365 Open, a new approach that allows channel partners to set end-customer pricing and manage end-customer billing. The updates could play a critical role as Microsoft tries to lift Office 365 revenues by 40 percent this year.

Generally speaking, a growing number of Microsoft channel partners are embracing Office 365, which competes with Google Apps in the market for cloud productivity applications. A butique market for Office 365 management tools has also popped up -- including offerings like 365 Command.

What's Already Here

Meanwhile, Microsoft today delivered Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 University for college and university students; the latter will battle Google Apps for Education.

In a prepared statement, CEO Steve Ballmer today said: "This is so much more than just another release of Office. This is Office reinvented as a consumer cloud service with all the full-featured Office applications people know and love, together with impressive new cloud and social benefits."

What's Coming Soon

Still, most channel partners and cloud integrators are closely tracking the forthcoming Feb. 27 business enhancements. Despite Microsoft's progress with its cloud business, company executives offered no updates or hints about cloud revenues during a recent earnings call.

Plus, some partners are wondering if Microsoft is introducing too many SKUs (stock-keeping unit) for the new cloud suite. I believe there will be roughly eight Office 365 SKUs, which could potentially trigger confusion as customers and partners evaluate the best configuration for their particular needs.