Google has joined forces with Optus to deliver its Google Apps range to SMEs, with products including video-conferencing and instant messaging to be introduced in the second quarter of the year.
Previously, Optus only offered infrastructure – leasing computing resources such as memory capacity and processing power – as part of its cloud computing options for businesses.
Optus SME managing director Rohan Ganeson says the new Google Apps will mean SMEs won’t have to worry about maintaining backend IT systems.
Doug Farber, Google managing director for the Asia-Pacific enterprise division, has said he hopes the partnership provides SMEs with innovative and easy-to-use products.
“Australian SMBs often would like to invest in better communication and collaboration tools, but they assume that it’s too expensive or complicated,” Farber said in a statement.
According to Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi, telcos such as Optus may be concerned about Google’s growth and the threat it poses with regard to its business services.
Google already distributes Google Apps to several businesses in the United States, and is slowly dominating the SME software-as-a-service market.
“Certainly under the National Broadband Network, there are some concerns among companies that stronger brands such as Google could become ISPs,” Fadaghi says.
Google is also competing against cloud rival Microsoft, which powers the Telstra cloud services.
“This also comes at an interesting time, given it wasn’t so long ago the chief of Optus came out and suggested some search results should be auctioned out and distributed to competitors. This deal is then interesting given that Optus seems to be threatened by Google a little,” Fadaghi says.
Optus chief executive Paul O’Sullivan told a forum last week that Google should be encouraged to manage a more open platform, suggesting that traffic for search engines could even be auctioned.
“Overtime, this will become more mainstream. It’s a little bit early to say it’s taking over, but it’s definitely the way software offerings are going. We’re seeing a massive push from on-premise to software-as-a-service applications,” he said.
“Whether or not that goes down to desktop apps such as Word and other spreadsheets, we’ll wait and see.”
“But the biggest question in my mind is, what value is Optus bringing to the table? They have a large base of users, but why wouldn’t people go directly to Google?”
Optus has said it will provide the tools and support that larger businesses enjoy, and says it will also offer business solutions, service and distribution help to SMEs.
Ganeson says the idea to partner with Google is so the company can underpin its dedication to small business.
“Our solutions can help small and medium businesses operate faster and more cost-effectively and access their vital business applications anytime, anywhere,” he says.
Pricing details will be announced closer to the launch.