One of the biggest announcements coming out of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner conference this week was Microsoft's disclosure of pricing and partnering details for its latest Software plus Services model offering--Microsoft Online Services (MOS). With MOS, Microsoft is offering some of its most popular server products, such as Exchange and SharePoint, as hosted services to businesses of all sizes. As part of the announcement, the company outlined two service bundles for the online services-- a "deskless" solution geared toward workers who spend little time with a PC and a full featured productivity suite tailored for information workers that includes collaboration tools, portals, IM/presence, and web conferencing. The products are still in beta, with the final release due late in 2008.


 The low-end deskless solutions include Exchange Online Deskless Worker and SharePoint Online Deskless Worker. The services provide somewhat limited performance and storage capabilities, but priced at $2.00 per user per month for either application ($3.00 per user per month for both), it's a pretty cost-effective solution for those workers not tethered to a computer but with occasional communication and collaboration needs.


The company is also offering enterprise class versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications, and Office Live Meeting as part of its online services. Companies can subscribe to these services individually or through the Business Productivity Suite, which includes all the applications for $15 per user per month.


 Microsoft also announced that MOS partners and resellers will receive 12 percent of the contract price for the first year and 6 percent of subsequent fees. Although some resellers are disappointed with the terms of the partner agreement, others think that the publicity that Microsoft is bringing to the Software as a Service (SaaS) space will result in a win for them as well.


 In his article " Microsoft Online Makes a Big Splash in the Services Pool," (http://www.officesharepointpro.com/content/1930/microsoft-online-makes-a-big-splash-in-the-services-pool.aspx) Office and SharePoint Pro Community Manager Dan Holme writes, "I think this offering will change the landscape, simply by the magnitude of Microsoft's presence in the services market and will accelerate what I believe is the inevitable transformation of IT organizations away from being plumbers and utility providers toward being a strategic asset for the organization."


 What's your take on that statement? Do you think SaaS is a "win" for Microsoft as well as its customers and partners. Is it the wave of the future for application delivery? What are the problems and pitfalls of the SaaS model? Click on Comments below to add your voice to the discussion and take this month's Instant Poll "Does your company plan to implement Microsoft Online Services (MOS) hosted services?" which you'll find on the WindowsITPro Home page (http://windowsitpro.com).