Sprint, Microsoft Team to Offer Office 365 to Small Businesses

The cloud is the thing. Sprint has furthered its cloud efforts, announcing it will soon offer Microsoft's Office 365, and offered a boost to Microsoft's wide-ranging cloud efforts.

Sprint will soon offer Microsoft Office 365 to its small- and midsized-business (SMB) customers, it announced July 31. It addition to strengthening its business customer base, the move furthers Sprint's cloud-based initiatives and makes use of its growing 4G networks.

Office 365 offers a cloud-based version of popular Microsoft software and Web applications. With it, subscribers will be able to securely access Office Web apps, email, calendar information and instant messages; share files; and conference colleagues from "nearly any device," said Sprint.

The solution includes built-in antivirus and spam-fighting software, and offers a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee. Per-month subscription plans, which start as low as $6 a month, keep things scalable and flexible for SMBs.

"Sprint's open approach to cloud includes teaming with trusted industry leaders, like Microsoft, with proven solutions €¦" John Dupree, Sprint's senior vice president of Business Sales, said in a July 31 statement. "Our focus on the seamless integration of mobility with cloud services allows companies to extend our reliable and secure networks to their mobile workforces, so they can confidently use hosted services any time, virtually anywhere and from any device."

The Office 365 announcement meets a promised expansion of Sprint's software as a service (SaaS) portfolio, which Sprint plans to continue to grow with additional applications. Its cloud-based plans also include infrastructure as a service (Iaas) offerings, planned for later this year.

During Sprint's second-quarter earnings call, CEO Dan Hesse said that the carrier continued to innovate in the business solutions space, with its announcement of "wholesale and retail cloud services and a refresh of capabilities in our Sprint Biz 360 portfolio, which provides mobility solutions for small-business customers."

On July 30, Microsoft also partnered with Dell to offer the solution, starting at $9 per user per month.

"Dell is committed to helping small- and medium-business customers realize the full power of the cloud," Cindy Grogan, executive director of software marketing for Dell, said in a statement.

The cloud has lately been as much a mantra for Microsoft as a major focus. At its Worldwide Partner Conference July 10, Microsoft introduced a number of solutions to help its partners drive business to the cloud, ushering in what it calls the "era of the Cloud OS."

To consumers directly, it introduced a reimagining of mobile email July 31, Outlook blog, is "modern email designed for the next billion mailboxes."

While Sprint has gotten behind Microsoft's efforts in the sky, it's keeping its feet on the ground in regard to Microsoft's upcoming Windows Phone 8€“based smartphones. Sprint is the only Tier 1 carrier that has yet to commit to the platform, instead, taking a wait-and-see approach and keeping an eye on Research In Motion's BlackBerry 10 efforts.