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Microsoft Preps E-Mail, Collaboration Managed Solutions

Meanwhile, the desktop manager offering--incubated and in production at battery maker Energizer--has turned out more complex to develop than anticipated and won't be generally available for some time, a Microsoft manager says.

Messaging and collaboration will be the first two Microsoft managed solutions to hit the market, but not in 2006.

Ron Markezich, CIO and vice president of managed solutions at Microsoft, said the upcoming e-mail and SharePoint offerings will beat the company’s planned desktop manager solution.

"We want to expand the portfolio. We'll run e-mail, SharePoint, LCS [Live Communications Service] and desktop manager, but the desktop is actually harder than e-mail," Markezich said in an interview at the Microsoft Management Summit in San Diego. "Desktop is a big change."

Nothing will materialize in 2006, and it will be several years before a complete managed-solutions platform is up and running, he said.

The desktop manager offering--incubated and in production at battery maker Energizer, Microsoft's first and only paying managed-solution customer--has been more complex to develop than anticipated and won't be generally available for some time, Markezich said.

"The desktop will take longer, and it won't be this year [for the other managed solutions]," he said. '"It won't be in this calendar year."

Microsoft will continue to scale the service in a measured, incremental manner, adding one enterprise customer at a time, according to Markezich. This year, Microsoft will sign two more paying customers, a financial services company and a conglomerate, he said, declining to name the companies. The Redmond, Wash., software giant isn’t trying to become EDS or a hosting powerhouse but deliver a mass-volume, managed desktop solution online for enterprises with 2,000 or more desktops.

Microsoft calls its managed solutions "products" rather than managed services because they are one-size-fits-all offerings that will be standard, not customized, Markezich noted. "We're building a product, not a service. We're trying to find the perfect desktop--with a standard menu and standard price. It's complicated," he said.

In recent months, Microsoft has briefed partners on a planned enterprise security service and Groove Enterprise Service, but Markezich said he wasn’t familar with those plans. This week, Microsoft acknolwedged that it may deploy a software and licensing asset management service, in the wake of its acquisition of AssetMetrix, but Markezich said that effort isn’t tied to his managed solutions group.

Microsoft has yet to work out the channel plan for its managed solutions platform, since it's still in an early phase, according to Markezich. But he said partners will be included in the revenue sharing.

In the Energizer engagement, Microsoft is partnering with Siemens and Hewlett-Packard to provide help-desk and customer support needs for the managed desktop, Markezich said. Microsoft charges the customer directly and pays partners for their efforts.

"Partners are part of the solution, and we will use the partner ecosystem," Markezich said. "We do need to figure out how to handle solutions between 200 and 2,000 desktops. "

In the future, VARs will be able to resell the services and get a piece of the subscription revenue. Microsoft will subcontract with service partners and service providers for specific functions, he said.

When asked why Microsoft wouldn’t just go direct to the customer via the Internet, Markezich said the company needs channel partners to sell the idea and service globally. "We need feet on the streets," he said. "We have MCS [Microsoft Consulting Services] professional services. But this is a product, not a service."

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