Seeking to beef up its products and services for small and midsize businesses, AT&T Monday announced that it will offer Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based service. AT&T is making the SaaS (software as a service) available for its 300,000 small-business customers, providing mobile and desktop access to popular Microsoft programs like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the Lync instant messaging platform -- the same offering as Microsoft's Office 365.
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Mike Sapien, a principal analyst with Ovum, says the news makes a lot of sense for AT&T. "It's a big play to have a really popular packaged app they can deliver to the [small business] market," he says. "They're really putting something out there that businesses actually need."
Buying a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office has a number of potential advantages for users, Sapien points out. A cloud model frees users from having to dedicate on-premise resources to hosting the application, while allowing the programs to be accessed across a range of devices, including mobile platforms on the AT&T network.
The AT&T offering also comes with Tech Support 360, AT&T's support program for helping customers set up, migrate and service the software.
Microsoft Office 365 from AT&T starts at $6 per user per month and is broken into two tiers: one for businesses with between one and 25 users, and another for an unlimited number of users. In addition to purchasing the bundle, customers have a choice to purchase some apps as a standalone product, including Exchange email, Lync, and SharePoint.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.