New York -- In a surprising turn of events, software major Microsoft and Verizon Wireless are teaming up in a bid to offer more cloud accessibility to small business users via Office 365. Verizon made the announcement together with Microsoft at a small press gathering in New York City on Tuesday.
With the new pact, Office 365 now becomes part of Verizons' Small Business Essential's portfolio, which supports Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone, and combines together some cool features like access to email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and document sharing, all based in the cloud.
“Really, it is the small business, it is the real estate brokerage firm…even that pizza shop that has been on the corner for the last 30 years…. It is those small businesses that are really fueling our economy, those small businesses that are really important to Verizon,” said Mike Schaefer, Verizon's executive director of product development. Shchaefer added that Verizon Wireless's 4G LTE network makes mobile productivity software more useful than ever.
Microsoft and Verizon are keenly anticipating that small business customers will take advantage of the partnership's $6 monthly rate, plus the perks that comes along with integrated mobile device management, including Verizon's 4G LTE network. The service provider started rolling out its 4G LTE network in Dec. 2010 and plans to have it available to 400 markets by the end of the year.
With Office 365, small businesses receive powerful productivity tools that are normally reserved for bigger firms that can afford Microsoft's hefty licensing fees. However, Office 365 capabilities that has been wrapped into Small Business Essentials include Office Web apps, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online, which help to bring the features of a PC to a smartphone or tablet.
As a matter of fact, for small businesses and entrepreneurs the top two productivity tool priorities are simplicity and cost effectiveness, Schaefer, stated in a statement. Office 365's small business tools help address that, he said, with an emphasis on the program's scalable services.
By including Office 365 in Verizon Wireless' Small Business Essentials package, companies “are empowered to be more mobile, more productive and more secure,” Microsoft Office division general manager Kirk Gregersen said in a statement.
Assessing the partnership further, PCMag Lead Mobile Analyst Sascha Segan, noted that he sees this as a bigger potential win for Microsoft than Verizon.
“Microsoft wants to make it easier for small businesses to choose Office 365 over Google Apps, and integrating with a major small business wireless provider lets them do that,” Segan said.
Segan further added: “I doubt businesses are going to choose Verizon over another carrier because of the Office relationship -- they choose carriers because of coverage and price.”
Nevertheless, Verizon customers have always been able to sign up for Office 365, but the latest announcement underlines a significant partnership between Microsoft and Verizon. If customers avail Office 365 through Verizon, all of the charges go directly to their Verizon bill, and they will also get a custom domain as part of the setup process. Verizon also has its own customer service representatives for Office 365 users.
Eventually, the Redmond Vole has not been afraid to go after Google's apps directly in its war to dominate online productivity, and a key partnership like this could land it some loyal small business users.