Microsoft Showcases Channel-Ready Services Hosted by Service Providers at the Worldwide Partner Conference 2008

HOUSTON — July 8, 2008 — Today at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2008, Microsoft Corp. announced that private-label distributors Smarthost Sweden AB and groupSPARK Inc., the 2008 Microsoft Hosting Solutions Partner of the Year, are deploying new Microsoft-based services, enabling the reseller channel to expand their portfolio of hosted services and providing greater choices for resellers as they go to market with software plus services. Microsoft is also showcasing its Communications Sector Partner Community and Hosting Solutions Competency to further support its global partner network.

Smarthost, one of the fastest-growing private-label distributors of software plus services in Europe, announced it will deploy the Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration (HMC) Version 4.5 and Microsoft Connected Services Framework to help independent software vendors (ISVs) create software-plus-service offerings. The new offerings will be sold through Smarthost’s network of value-added resellers (VARs) and service providers as a cost-effective and simple way to quickly reach new markets. In addition, these solutions will further enable Smarthost’s resellers to rapidly deliver hosted services that are tailored to address the specific business needs of their customers, without the requirement to invest in deploying a hosting infrastructure themselves. By implementing Connected Services Framework, Smarthost and its partners will be able to easily create service catalogs, aggregating services to create unique value to specific customer segments.

As part of Smarthost’s business offering, it provides access to a portfolio of hosted services available through the Smarthost Control Panel with a fully branded interface. The Control Panel not only serves as an administrative tool for resellers, but also helps give their customers a seamless experience of consuming services provided by the reseller.

“As a leading distributor of software plus services, we have a mission to continuously broaden and improve our portfolio of services, regardless of whether it’s targeted at resellers or their end consumers,” said Michael Wicander, CEO of Smarthost. “By deploying Connected Services Framework for service enablement, and private-labeling hosted services based on HMC, we give our partners the opportunity to create new revenue opportunities, while also strengthening their brand name and growing their customer base.”

“At Microsoft, we recognize that private-labeling our hosted solutions creates a unique opportunity for our service provider partners to deliver branded, resalable, targeted hosted services to resellers, allowing resellers to address specific business needs for their customers,” said John Zanni, general manager of Worldwide Hosting at Microsoft. “The evolution toward software plus services is ultimately about empowering customers and partners with greater choice and flexibility in how software is delivered. By extending rich solutions such as HMC and Connected Services Framework to private-label providers, Microsoft not only gives customers the options they value, but also enables its partner ecosystem to meet those needs with a broad array of choices.”

groupSPARK is another software-plus-services provider of hosted Microsoft-based private-label offerings. Like Smarthost, groupSPARK has deployed the HMC solution in a way that enables its channel partners and resellers to launch their own branded hosted services rapidly without requiring large initial investments or recurring management costs.

“Traditional IT resellers don’t need to be left behind in a service-based delivery world.  The success of our private-label services has demonstrated the tremendous opportunity that resellers have to leverage existing customer relationships to drive new recurring revenue streams,” said Ravi Agarwal, founder and senior executive officer of groupSPARK. “Microsoft’s suite of solutions, including Hosted Messaging and Collaboration, gives us a stable, scalable and, most importantly, familiar, platform of applications that the end customers demand.”

groupSPARK Offers SaaS Services Through Ingram Micro Seismic

groupSPARK recently announced an agreement with Ingram Micro Inc., a leading distributor of technology products and services to the IT industry, to resell its private-label software-plus-services offerings, including hosted Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 as well as Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, through Ingram Micro’s Seismic Virtual Services Warehouse. The Seismic Virtual Services Warehouse provides VARs with a full range of managed IT services, professional IT labor services and warranty contract management services, and enables VARs to extend a variety of hosted software services to its customers. In addition, the agreement allows Ingram Micro Seismic to offer private-label solutions based on HMC from groupSPARK to partners in the U.S. and Canada.

groupSPARK Receives Partner of the Year Award

Microsoft named groupSPARK its 2008 Partner of the Year in the Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, Hosting Solutions category. groupSPARK was selected from a pool of more than 2,000 entrants worldwide, based on its demonstration of both technical and business innovation and its ability to enable the Microsoft channel to deliver branded software-plus-services solutions. Its integration of key Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM with proprietary, industry-leading automation tools enables groupSPARK resellers to go to market quickly and cost-effectively with a full suite of private-label hosted services under their own brands.

Hosting Solutions Competency Now Available

Partner-hosted services play a crucial role in how customers consume Microsoft software. To help partners deliver the best possible hosting solutions, Microsoft has converted its Hosting Solutions specialization, formerly part of the Advanced Infrastructure Solutions Competency, into a full Hosting Solutions Competency. By doing so, Microsoft now provides its service provider partners with access to an even more robust selection of hosting tools, sales and support strategies, and training opportunities. While partners will still have the ability to access the Microsoft platform, software, tools and services to help meet their customers’ needs, partners now are able to leverage their activity in the Hosting Solutions Competency to better distinguish their organizations as hosting experts.

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Microsoft Launches the Communications Sector Partner Community

As an extension of the broader Microsoft Partner Program, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Communications Sector Partner Community to provide additional benefits to partners, such as enhanced collaboration between participants focusing on industries such as Web hosting.

In addition, this initiative offers an array of new opportunities across the Microsoft partner ecosystem, providing greater visibility to key constituencies within Microsoft. For example, members of the community will have access to a variety of beneficial resources, such as industry-specific solution catalogs, allowing partners to profile their solutions and promote them to a broad audience, as well as marketing tips and techniques to help partners reach new customers.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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