In Microsoft's global launch of Microsoft Office 365, which the company posits as a game changer, wireless is very much a player, although it might not be immediately apparent.
Microsoft Office 365 is the company's newest cloud service, launched in 40 markets; it was introduced in beta last year, and more than 200,000 organizations have been testing it.
Among the more than 20 service providers committed to offering it to their customers are Vodafone Group, Telefonica S.A. and Bell Canada. No big U.S.-based wireless operators were part of today's announcement, but according to Microsoft, stay tuned.
Speaking from the London launch event today, Austen Mulinder, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Operator Channel based in Redmond, Wash., suggests one of the big selling points for operators is reduction in churn; operators like Vodafone already sell telephony-based cloud services, and by adding Office 365 to the same bill, it simplifies things for end-users who are less likely to jump ship.
Office 365 will work for businesses of all sizes, but the small and medium business (SMB) sector is of particular interest to Microsoft. Wireless is important to a lot of small and medium enterprises that are moving around during the day. As one example, Mulinder refers to a small speech therapy company using 365 – the company doesn't have an office but needs secure access to data on the move.
For its part, Vodafone says its Vodafone One Net, which has more than 1.4 million users across Europe, gives small and medium enterprises a simple, cost-effective, one-bill solution for all fixed and mobile users. Microsoft Office 365 will give businesses cloud access to the latest Microsoft productivity tools including email and calendar, Microsoft Office Web Apps, collaboration tools, instant messaging and online meetings.
Mulinder is also confident that Microsoft offers a business model for operators that is more compelling than what Google can offer. Research shows some 85 percent of small and medium businesses are using Microsoft, so they're already familiar with Office. (Of course, Google has already countered with its "365 reasons to consider Google Apps."
No doubt, Office 365 will be one more thing to consider as Nokia works with Microsoft to bring Windows Phone 7 offerings to market.