Microsoft has signed another three Australian application service providers (ASPs) to sell its Office and BackOffice product suite under the ASP Licensing Pilot Program, launched earlier this year.
The addition of WebCentral, Peakhour and Unisys brings the membership of the Pilot Program to five, including Telstra and Tequinox.
According to Microsoft, the diverse range of ASP partners taking part in the Pilot Program will mean that businesses will be able to choose a service provider that suits their specific needs.
"Through Microsoft's ASP Licensing Pilot Program, customers will have access to and be able to choose from the best ASPs in the country offering Microsoft products," said Kevin Rodrigo, Microsoft Australia's network solutions group manager.
The deal with Microsoft is key to providing a complete product offering under an ASP model, where software is hosted remotely and delivered via a secure network line on a rental basis.
"Adding Microsoft Office to our suite means that Peakhour customers can now access the latest version of the world's most popular business software from any computer with a browser and an Internet connection, said Troy Cox, Peakhour's chief technical officer.
The announcement follows a recent statement by Microsoft regarding a three-way global partnership between Microsoft, Cable & Wireless and Compaq to create a wide range of ASP services.
Meanwhile, at the recent Fusion 2000 event in the US, Microsoft outlined its plans to address the introduction of special pricing for ASPs and a number of related initiatives, after a year of experimenting with its software pricing models.
As part of the announcement, Microsoft said ASPs would be able to pay for some of its key software packages by the month instead of having to buy upfront licences, a move that many ASPs had been requesting. ASPs will be able to license SQL Server 2000, Windows 2000 Server, Exchange 2000 and Office 2000 on a monthly basis, with the fees to be determined either by the number of named users or the number of processors on the system running the software.
Microsoft also introduced an ASP certification program aimed at helping users select dependable application hosting firms. In addition, it launched product support programs for ASPs and released documentation that's supposed to help them develop and manage services based on its products. And finally, Microsoft addressed the thorny issue of how ASPs will coexist with the software resellers that it depends on for sales.
The monthly subscriptions now being offered to ASPs will be sold through Microsoft's Certified Solution Provider channel, said a Microsoft spokesperson.