GoDaddy touts simplicity over price as it launches Office 365 sales

Massive domain registrar inks deal with Microsoft to sell Office subscriptions

Domain name registrar GoDaddy and Microsoft today announced a partnership that puts Office 365, the latter's rent-not-own software suite, in front of GoDaddy's small business customers.

"This is an obvious symbiotic partnership," said Wes Miller, analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "There are a lot of ex-Microsoft people there, and GoDaddy is a huge registrar."

GoDaddy's chief executive, Blake Irving, was formerly with Microsoft, where he led the Windows Live team. Among others, Rick Eames, who heads design and user experience at GoDaddy, was also once at Microsoft.

Under the partnership, which the companies cast as a strategic agreement, GoDaddy will sell three Office 365 plans linked to the domains of its customers, who are predominantly small business owners.

At the lowest-priced end, GoDaddy will market "Email Essentials," a $3 per user per month plan that provides email hosting only, with storage limited to 5GB for messages and 2GB for other files via Microsoft's SkyDrive Pro. That plan, said Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy's senior vice president of Business Applications, is new to the Office 365 family, one the two companies came up with together.

The other plans -- named Business Essentials and Productivity Plus by GoDaddy -- are feature-for-feature replicas of what Microsoft itself sells as Office 365 Small Business and Office 365 Small Business Premium, respectively.

The former offers email hosting and larger amounts of storage space, as well as access to Microsoft's browser-based Office apps. The latter adds a subscription license to Office 2013 (Windows) and Office for Mac 2011 (OS X) that lets customers locally install the suite on up to five personal computers, as well as rights to run the iOS and Android versions of Office Mobile on their iPhones and Android tablets and smartphones.

Both GoDaddy and Microsoft charge $12.50 per user per month for Productivity Plus/Office 365 Small Business Premium.

But the difference between the prices for Business Essentials and Office 365 Small Business is striking: GoDaddy charges $9 per user per month for its version while Microsoft's price is only $5 per user per month, a 44% savings.

What's up with that?

Aldrich acknowledged that Business Essentials was a feature-for-feature match for Microsoft's Office 365 Small Business, but ticked off three bonus elements in GoDaddy's offerings.

"Each plan is a one-click setup, really one-click," Aldrich said, citing domain selection and registration, and email address suggestion. GoDaddy also created a custom administrative panel for its Office 365 users crafted with small business owners in mind, and will provide 24/7 live support for all customers.

"We think it's the right value for all that," said Aldrich of the $9 per user per month price of Business Essentials.

GoDaddy dashboard
GoDaddy created its own management dashboard for small business customers who subscribe to Microsoft's Office 365 email hosting service or productivity suite. (Image: GoDaddy.)
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