With SaaS, Microsoft Sweetens Its Azure Offering

Designed for political campaigns, the suite works by letting candidates connect with constituents via TownHall, while Microsoft’s online collaboration and advertising tools help campaign workers communicate with each other and spread their messages. Especially for local or regional campaigns without the resources to build the specialized tools President Obama’s utilized, Microsoft’s pitch — a prepackaged solution that can be set up, torn down and paid for on demand — should be appealing. But Microsoft’s SaaS-plus-PaaS business model has legs beyond politics, and beyond Redmond.

TownHall provides a Microsoft Azure cloud-hosted solution in a low-cost, low-friction fashion. TownHall, with its multitude of existing and planned clients, allows organizations to engage individuals on whatever device they may be using at a given moment.

TownHall also delivers valuable insight. Recognizing the value of collecting data at the level of the individual, TownHall is delivered with a reputation system that incents users to create profiles. Every engagement an individual has with the site results in the collection of data that is associated with a profile and which can be used for analytics. To drive continued engagement within the community, TownHall’s reputation system awards points and badges for every contribution to the community (asking questions, answering questions, or voting). In our first beta customer, NASA, we’ve seen this reputation system prove itself to be very effective, with some individuals earning just under 2 million points in just under 6 months.

CampaignReady is a collection of services, including advertising from Bing, TownHall, free Microsoft Office Templates, and online fee based services to help campaigns (political or otherwise) “identify and engage citizens on the Web as part of their campaign efforts”, according to a post on Microsoft on the Issues.

The possibilities are perhaps best exemplified by the number of Salesforce.com customers using its flagship CRM offering, which sits atop its Force.com platform — more than 72,000, according to the company. Presumably, it was positive experiences with the SaaS application that inspired 200,000-plus developers to build more than 135,000 custom applications that run on Force.com. It’s possible that Force.com could have attracted an equally large base as a standalone offering not intrinsically connected with Salesforce.com’s SaaS business, but unlikely.

TownHall will be available later today via a free download on MSDN, and will be accessible via a number of platforms

Microsoft this week rolled out its CampaignReady suite of services, which is anchored by the Microsoft Azure-hosted TownHall.

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