Sprint to serve up Google Apps for small businesses, enterprise customers

Sprint (NYSE: S) is appealing to the growing mobile nature of its business customer base by establishing a partnership with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) where it will provide the Internet search giant's apps to its business customer base.

Although many businesses already use Google's apps like Gmail, Sprint said the differentiator is the services and support that Sprint can provide to existing and new business customers. Sprint will provide 24x7 support and call support combined with a mobile-centric approach that it says enables the use of Google Apps on various mobile devices.

Since Google Apps is a cloud-based solution, these tools can allow people to work anywhere, anytime, on any device, without loss of security or control. 

"What we are most excited about working with Google is we wrap it around a set of services and support that will make this partnership even more valuable to our customers than buying either Google or Sprint alone," said Mike Fitz, vice president of business solution commercialization, Sprint Business, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "It's about how one plus one equals three."

Another aspect of the service is simplicity for each user. The service provider will provide a single sign-on, meaning that a user will only have to remember one password to use all of the Google apps, whether it's Gmail, Google Calendar or Google Sites.

"When you buy Google apps from Sprint, you get single sign-on capability through a third-party partner we're using, which means you can sign in using your Google ID but thousands of other applications as well," Fitz said. "If you have a salesforce automation app you use every day, you can use that same ID and password to log onto that and any other apps you use."

Of course, the new pact also plays into the mobile nature of today's workforce. Customers will be able to leverage the Sprint wireline and wireless network to access these services.

While the pact is new, Sprint and its new parent Softbank have been using the Google apps internally. Softbank is actually one of Google's largest partners selling its apps.

While Sprint is initially targeting the new capability at SMBs, Fitz said that it could be relevant to large enterprises that have various remote branch offices.

"We expect this to be a SMB kind of play and that's where we are focusing," Fitz said. "We have invested additional resources in the SMB space in the last nine months to go after a targeted segment for us, but at the same time we expect there will be enterprise customers will adopt as well just like we're doing inside of Sprint."

Mike Sapien, Principal Analyst for Ovum's Enterprise Practice, told FierceTelecom that this service bundle should resonate well with SMBs that don't have the in-house IT staff to manage a large set of applications and software.

"I see this more of value to the SMBs and mid-market versus large enterprise and government accounts," Sapien said. "The lower end of the enterprise is looking for a simple, intuitive and integrated offer/bundle that doesn't require IT support and maintenance. I don't see this addressing the large enterprise and government customers with some small exceptions."

Establishing partnerships with third parties like Google has been an ongoing trend for Sprint, particularly as it advances its play in the cloud services market. Besides Google, the service provider has garnered relationships with CSC for data centers and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) unified communications tools.

Sapien said that the expects more partnerships like this one that Sprint made with Google to address how business customers are outsourcing more of their functions to third-parties so they can focus on their core business.

"We will see many of these new partnerships developing as the telco, IT and mobile providers start to develop cloud-based services and bundles to address the different customer segments to address workspace, mobile and communications requirements," he said. "Globally we see many of these partnerships include the Internet, content and OTT players with traditional providers allowing them to participate with the large base of existing customers who are moving towards hosted or cloud based consumption. Some of this is driven by the consumerization of IT and end users/employees who are very familiar with some of the consumer services." 

For more:
- see the release

On the Hot Seat: Sprint's Fitz on targeting mid-sized businesses with Carrier Ethernet

Related articles:
Mike Fitz, Sprint: Rising stars of wireline 2013
Sprint adds IaaS to its growing cloud services repertoire
Sprint to launch broader Ethernet service set later this year

Updated article on July 25 with quotes from Mike Sapien, principal analyst of Ovum's enterprise practice.