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What does Microsoft
Exchange
hosting giant Intermedia
think about Microsoft’s Office 365 and the software giant’s current plan to own
the billing for the cloud-based version of Microsoft Office? Not so much.

Like many Microsoft partners, Intermedia isn’t really interested in carrying
Office 365 as long as Microsoft retains control over the billing, according to
Jonathan McCormick, chief operating officer for the New York-based hosting
company, which now manages more than 300,000 Exchange mailboxes.

"Right now we are in conversations with Microsoft around Office
365," he told Channel Insider. "If we reach an agreement, there may
be some co-branding or reselling of some of those services.

"… If we can’t own the billing relationship, we won’t do it," he
said. "We don’t know if they will change the program in full or have a
different deal for some people. But they are definitely making changes in that
line, or we wouldn’t be talking about it."

Microsoft’s Senior Communications Manager Adam Carroll recently told Channel
Insider to expect the issue around Office 365 billing to be resolved to the
satisfaction of Microsoft channel partners. Carroll, who has previously spent
time in several different Microsoft product groups, is now serving as the
communications chief for Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill.

Intermedia held its partner conference in mid-March, announcing the record
number of Exchange seats for the company. The year 2010 also marked the first
where indirect revenues equaled direct revenues, said McCormick. But that’s not
expected to stay the same in 2011. Intermedia now has about 6,500 partners,
about a third of which are active. Most are MSPs and regional MSPs who truly
serve customers in the trusted adviser role. The company also has partners that
are Web hosting companies and also some enterprise partners such as CSC
and distributors such as Ingram Micro. And there is an affiliate program.

This year Intermedia expects partner revenues to total more than direct
revenues for the first time in the company’s history, according to McCormick.

What about other competition in the market? Google Apps used to be a bigger
topic of conversation during the recession, McCormick said. Not so much
anymore.

"We spend almost no time talking about Google anymore. We see Google
Apps from time to time," he said. McCormick added that every once in a
while an Intermedia customer will move to Google Apps or a Google Apps customer
will move to Intermedia.

"It was much more of a topic of conversation throughout 2009 when the
economy was slow," he said. "But we’ve grown every month for four or
five years now."

As for Intermedia versus Google Apps, McCormick points out that Intermedia
can offer customers a 24-hour help desk service with a "real technician
answering the phone. We are focused on knowledge-based workers where
productivity in email is really important to the business. We feel we are
serving a different segment."