Telstra, Microsoft, launch joint SaaS offering

Telstra will deliver a SaaS play using Microsoft technologies, and will take the hosted applications onto mobile devices.

Readers with long memories will know that there have been many attempts over the years to graft the telecommunications industry and the IT industry together, going back into the middle of the 1990s. In general, those attempts have failed – as an example, think of the Micosoft / Telstra “MSN” partnership of 1995 (Ed: I can remember 'On Australia', too!).

A new agreement announced today (November 5, 2008) between the two giants pitches Microsoft's software-as-a-service offerings into Australia's largest telecommunications network, in an offering targeting the SME sector. Launching the service, Telstra's Holly Kramer, group managing director of Telstra Product Management, said targets business customers' desire for applications that work seamlessly over fixed and mobile networks, offer improved productivity, and have low maintenance demands.

The two companies haven't yet launched the joint offerings – this announcement covered their agreement to work together – but the joint services will cover three areas: mobility applications and devices; hosted Microsoft business applications offered from Telstra's T-Suite on a subscription basis; and unified communications that blend Telstra's business IP telephony service with Microsoft's unified communications offerings including presence services, click-to-call, and unified messaging.

The mobile services will cover Microsoft Windows Mobile-based devices, with a choice of either e-mail only plans, or advanced mobile management applications. The offering is based on an enhanced UI developed for Telstra customers, providing one-click access to applications and services on selected Windows Mobile devices.

The Microsoft Online Services offering to be launched through Telstra's T-Suite (a software-as-a-service offering first announced in July) will include e-mail, Microsoft SharePoint Online services delivering Intranet portals and document collaboration with content management and workflow. Business instant messaging and presence services will be provided through Office Communications Online, and a hosted Office Live Meeting offering will provide Web conferencing capabilities.

Finally, Telstra will integrate its IP Telephony with Microsoft applications such as Office Communicator in a hosted IP telephony and unified communications offering. This is designed to give customers the chance for a “no infrastructure” IP telephony deployment, with the VoIP applications hosted in the Telstra network.

As with the T-Suite applications, the IP telephony is designed to be sold on a subscription basis.

The fixed IP services are designed to be deployed over Telstra broadband access using private IP networking, rather than the public Internet, as the access link.

Microsoft Australia's managing director, Tracey Fellows, said the services are designed to be sold through existing Microsoft and Telstra sales channels. Channel partners will be able to extend their portfolios to sell these alliance-based services. Similarly, Telstra Business group managing director Deena Shiff said Telstra will be the distributor of online services through T-Suite, with Telstra's retail channel such as shop fronts able to sell the Microsoft-Telstra services.

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