Starting in August, Sprint will pre-configure the mobile computing devices it sells with Google Apps for Business that are delivered as a service. The apps will be available for the same price that Google charges.
Mike Fitz, vice president of business solution commercialization for Sprint Business, says Sprint is seeing demand from customers for a complete mobile experience managed by the carrier that comes with access to cloud applications. While Sprint has previously made Microsoft Office 365 available as an option, Fitz says Sprint from now on will be leading with Google Apps for Business as the default set of applications that it pushes customers to adopt on the mobile devices Sprint sells.
As part of that effort, Sprint will provide free 24/7 end-user support along with giving customers access to single sign-on capabilities and domain name services.
Fitz says that small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are tired of not only the expense associated with traditional desktop applications, but the cost of maintaining email servers such as Microsoft Exchange. Opting for Google Apps for Business allows those customers to divert the resources that were previously consumed by Microsoft Office licensing fees and the overhead associated with managing Microsoft Exchange to other aspects of their business that would yield a higher return on the investment.
Carriers such as Sprint have ridden the rise of mobile computing to achieve great relevance in business environments. Where carriers once primarily sold mobile phones, they now also sell tablet devices that in many use cases are replacing traditional laptops. By bundling cloud applications with its devices, Fitz says Sprint can become the primary source for mobile computing platforms and applications.
The challenge Sprint faces now that it is operating as a unit SoftBank is that it is locked in a fierce battle with rival carriers such as Verizon and AT&T for control of that business. The degree to which aligning with Google will make Sprint more competitive in business environments remains to be seen. But with roughly five million people already licensed to use Google Apps, Sprint is clearly betting that attractive data plans coupled with the natural synergy between mobile and cloud computing is going to wind up pushing a lot more business customers in the direction of Google than Microsoft.