Google aligns with Sprint to drive business adoption of Google Apps

Sprint has announced that it will be reselling Google Apps in August. Will it be a strategic move that helps Google Apps gain a foothold?

Image: Lynn La/CNET

The success of Google's product ecosystem in the enterprise hinges heavily on a few specific products. This is especially true of Google Apps, which is foundational to a successful deployment of other Google enterprise products in larger businesses.

On Wednesday, July 23, Sprint announced that it would be partnering with Google to offer Google Apps for Business this coming August. The offering will be focused on mobile deployments and will offer deployment assistance with 24/7 support, as well as the ability to craft, what Sprint calls, a "complete solution" tailored to specific business needs.

"Google Apps helps businesses work better together with familiar tools they can trust," said Murali Sitaram, director of strategic partnerships for Google Enterprise. "Our partners are critical in this effort, providing valuable cloud and mobility solutions to customers of all sizes and across diverse industries. We are pleased to welcome Sprint to the Google Apps Partner Program, where they will provide Google Apps and added services to help customers work the way they live."

Sprint is technically becoming a "reseller" of Google's products through Google's Apps for Business partner program. Sprint is joining the over 10,000 partners in the program, including companies such as Agosto and Cloud Sherpas. While Google has a dedicated support team for enterprise customer, this partnership is unique because Sprint will be providing separate end user support to help with customer service needs.

The partnership is strategic from Google's point of view, as it receives a mobile partner with existing enterprise clout and a vested interest in selling its products. According to TJ Keitt, an analyst at Forrester, this will allow Google to be more competitive with companies such as Microsoft, who already have a strong partner network in place.

"If you look at the primary competitor for Google in this space it's Microsoft, and Microsoft has a series of relationships like this with telecom services providers like Verizon or Vodafone or, I believe, Sprint for that matter as well and AT&T," Keitt said. "They bundle under this concept of syndication, which allows for a provider like Sprint to do, essentially, the same things that Sprint will be doing with Google -- resell, and be the primary point of contact for the Office 365 service, but also to bundle in their own capabilities."

Keitt mentioned that this service tier is primarily targeted at SMBs and this could be a reaction by Google to the small and mid market pressure that Microsoft is exerting by constantly reporting the growth of their cloud business; growth that is predominantly driven by Office 365 adoption.

When Office 365 got started, it was targeted at SMBs, where Google already had a strong presence. Microsoft is already a trusted brand among large enterprise customers, a market where Google is working to gain trust. According to Keitt, it's a smart move by Microsoft to try and capture an audience among small and mid-sized businesses because it gives them an opportunity to maintain a customer base along the entire spectrum of business customers. Where Google began most of its services among startups and SMBs and is working to scale up, Microsoft is an enterprise powerhouse that is trying to scale down to accommodate smaller business customers.

Sprint, on the other hand, gets access to a readymade cloud suite that it can offer to it's broad list of existing enterprise customers, as well as something it can use to entice new customers. It also makes sense for Sprint to work on building out its partner network, as it continues inching toward a merger with T-Mobile, which would likely bring more customers with diverse needs. Sprint will also likely be able to boost revenue from enterprise accounts by offering premium service and support packages associated with Google Apps.

"Once you get past the baseline voice services and the networking capabilities, which are commoditized, what's the value add? So, being able to provide this, in conjunction with some of the the things they're proposing as part of a bundle deal, would suggest that this is the value add. Sprint becomes a one-stop for communication and collaboration technology," Keitt said.

While Keitt noted that he believes the partnership shows "the growing maturity of Google's approach to its partnerships," only time will tell if this will be an effective boost to Google's credibility and standing among the enterprise and SMBs.

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