Verizon Wireless is making a strong bid for small businesses today with the announcement that it’s offering Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud productivity suite.
Verizon made the announcement together with Microsoft at a small press gathering in New York City today. Office 365 is now a part of Verizon’s Small Business Essential’s portfolio, and it bundles together such features as email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and document sharing, all based in the cloud.
“Really, it’s the small business, it’s the real estate brokerage firm…even that pizza shop that’s been on the corner for the last 30 years…. It’s 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.
With Office 365, small businesses receive powerful productivity tools that are normally reserved for bigger firms that can afford Microsoft’s hefty licensing fees. The suite supports Windows and Mac desktops as well as iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry.
Microsoft’s desktop Office suite currently has 1 billion users, but Office 365 has the potential to reach 4 billion users across 88 markets, according to Jeff Anderson, Microsoft’s senior product manager of Office 365 syndication. (Editor’s note: We’re not sure where he’s getting those numbers, because there aren’t 4 billion people with computers in the world, meaning Anderson’s aspirational market is larger than the entire computing universe right now. Perhaps he’s envisioning a distant future when replicants are everywhere and Microsoft software is widely used in the off-world colonies.)
He noted that over 90 percent of Office 365 customers have fewer than 50 employees, hammering in its usefulness for small businesses.
The cloud suite is “on track to become the fastest growing product Microsoft has ever had,” Anderson said.
Verizon customers have always been able to sign up for Office 365, but today’s announcement highlights a significant partnership between Microsoft and Verizon. If customers get Office 365 through Verizon, all of the charges go directly to their Verizon bill, and they’ll also get a custom domain as part of the setup process. Verizon also has its own customer service representatives for Office 365 users (they won’t be able to call Microsoft for support, Verizon reps tell me).
Microsoft hasn’t 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. We’ve previously argued that Office 365 has the potential to clobber Google’s apps — and it’s deals like this that could make that possible.
Verizon is offering Office 365 at Microsoft’s standard price of $6 per user, and it’s available to businesses starting today.