The seeds for my 10-minute conversation with Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna (pictured left) were sown in his keynote address at the company's recent partner summit (and subsequent unveiling of Web Desktop). So before I jump into this blog entry I suggest you check out the links above. Still with us? Read on for more insights from Laguna on the big announcements of the Open-Xchange Partner Summit.

Our conversation started with a discussion of Web Desktop, Open-Xchange's new software-as-a-service (SaaS) application launcher designed to simulate a desktop experience -- I wanted to know how it fit into the company's overall channel play.

The answer, according to Laguna, is simple: help VARs build their SaaS business and transition into making recurring revenues from managing hosted Open-Xchange deployments. By packaging up the core Open-Xchange applications (mail, contacts, calendar) in a way that makes it easy and attractive for VARs to bundle more services down the road, Web Desktop could sugarcoat the cloud pill for many customers with its familiar interface. And Laguna's talks at the summit suggested that Open-Xchange is all about the value-add.

Which is a good segue to Laguna's other main message for Open-Xchange partners: don't wait on making a SaaS move. He says now is the time to either become your own hosting provider or to find one to partner up with -- the business is growing fast, with Open-Xchange also using the conference to announce a more than 100% boost in SaaS revenue over the last year commensurate with a projected total user growth from 18 million to 24 million by the close of 2010.

Web Desktop is going to come with all Open-Xchange deployments, but since it works with any SaaS application that has a browser URL, Laguna says the company is working on a pricing scheme for those who want to leverage the launcher independently of any of their messaging or groupware products.

As for the competition, Laguna's not worried: as mentioned in his keynote, he looks down on what he perceives as Google and Microsoft's  focus on scale over service.

In fact, he says Open-Xchange has seen a steady flow of Microsoft Exchange resellers either outright defecting to or quietly assessing the open source messaging platform for fears that Redmond will leave them out in the cold with the launch of the Microsoft Partner Network and the new push towards reselling Office 365 it brings. Laguna says many partners want to keep control over their own customers -- something Microsoft's cloud efforts don't especially facilitate.

Open-Xchange is making a major push towards ubiquity with an OXtender platform extender planned for every situation imaginable, from BlackBerry Enterprise Server to Apple Mac OS X. Keep watching The VAR Guy for more on Open-Xchange as their story develops.

Sign up for The VAR Guy’s Weekly Newsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center. Follow The VAR Guy via RSS, Facebook and Twitter. Follow experts at VARtweet. Read The VAR Guy’s editorial disclosures here.