Microsoft and Telstra will bring together business software applications, mobile services and devices, and unified communications services for SMEs via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.
The alliance will offer hosted Microsoft business applications such as Exchange and SharePoint; integration with mobile devices for data synchronisation and device management; and hosted unified communications for click-to-call, presence, and voice and video conferencing over Telstra’s Next IP and Next G networks.
The companies plan for the first products to be introduced by mid-2009.
Telstra group managing director for product management, Holly Kramer, said the alliance aimed to turn the convergence between networks and applications into productivity benefits for its clients.
“This is true unified communications – a combination of telephony, email, mobility, conferencing, collaboration and tools like presence – and it will change the way many Australian businesses operate,” she said.
“There are thousands of Australian IT businesses, consultants and partners who resell or distribute Microsoft and Telstra products and through this planned alliance we intend to help them take advantage of new opportunities to invest and grow their business and open up new markets.”
Microsoft communications sector director, Kevin Brough, said Microsoft would host the platform while Telstra was the channel of distribution.
“We will align our channel partners and advisors with Telstra’s channel partners and advisors and allow them to provide this to customers in the marketplace who will go through the T-Suite portal,” he said.
Microsoft director SMB and partner group, Paul Voges, said the alliance would create a new market for resellers, consulting firms, systems integrators and ISVs.
“What this gives them is essentially an additional channel and an additional model to select customers where the partner doesn’t actually have to create or setup the infrastructure," he said. "They can refer the customer and then take on the commission or margin stream and as long as they keep servicing that customer and keep the relationship going they get an ongoing commission.”
Voges didn't expect the alliance to be detrimental to traditional systems integrators.
“Not every customer is going to want their applications hosted by somebody else, so there is still a strong role for them," he said. "And even if you go down this path and think about software plus services, we still think customers will want the rich part of the desktop and then have the server or something else hosted."
Voges said a typical challenge for resellers in the past was getting server oriented products with richer applications like UC and Exchange into the SME end of the market.
“You will still be giving advice, there will still be migration and installation, but then you get an ongoing tail of commission and that from an SI position is something they haven’t had before,” he said.
Microsoft will be holding joint partner briefings with Telstra as part of the launch program and will announce briefing dates within the next few weeks.