For quite a while now, Microsoft has been managing the desktops as a service provider for Energizer Holdings and XL Capital. Last year, Microsoft announced it was expanding the effort, offering large businesses the option of getting hosted Exchange and SharePoint directly as part of a program called Microsoft Online.
Executives had said that Microsoft's customer list had expanded, but has declined to say just who is on the roster.
The company is finally naming some names. Among the customers are Autodesk, Blockbuster, Coca-Cola and Ingersoll-Rand, all of whom have glowing things to say about the Microsoft service.
Microsoft is also announcing that it is no longer limiting the service to large businesses, as had been its initial plan. Customers of all sizes can sign up for a beta version now, with the service generally available in the second half of the year.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft's partners react to this. One of the few saving graces in the announcement last fall for hosting partners was that it was limited to large business. However, the writing has been on the wall for some time that hosted Exchange was an area that Microsoft planned to enter directly and in earnest.
Microsoft is still maintaining there's a partner opportunity with Microsoft managed services, but the company clearly is trying to walk a fine line.