Starting next month, telecom provider Sprint will begin offering Google Apps for Business in a move that it hopes will lead to business adoption of Google’s
-based productivity apps and tools, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs and Drive for enterprise clients.
The deal, through the Google Apps Reseller Program, marks the first time Google has teamed up with a major U.S. wireless carrier. The partnership will be aimed at business customers who want to access apps in the cloud.
The announcement comes during a turbulent time for Sprint. The company lost 2.2 million subscribers last year, and Sprint reportedly is in discussions to buy T-Mobile. It also comes at a time when Sprint is trying to move beyond basic network services toward helping customers with cloud services and in increased use of apps.
When we reached Atlanta-based technology analyst Jeff Kagan, he called it "an important next step" for Sprint.
"Businesses are going to find that it’s important to move their work to the cloud over the next several years, and this is a way for Sprint to reach those businesses at a crucial time," Kagan said.
Sprint's offer of Google Apps for Business will start August 18. Sprint will charge businesses the same rate as Google: about $5 per month per worker, to start, for access to apps including Gmail, Google Drive and Google Docs. For $10 a month per user per month, businesses will have access to Google Apps with unlimited cloud , 30 GB of other storage and services.
Sprint customers who get the new service will receive some perks for their money. Customers will receive consulting on deployment strategy, project management and cloud help-desk support. Optional paid professional services will also be available, including domain services and a single sign-on portal to access the apps.
Pricing for the extra services will be announced around the time the new service launches. Businesses that buy the Google Apps suite won’t be required to have wireless service or device contracts.
"Google’s versatile toolbox makes it simple for businesses large and small to integrate best-in-class, cloud-based solutions," said Mike Fitz, vice president of business solution commercialization for Sprint Business.
Probably Not Exclusive
Business customers can have employees use the service on Google's mobile OS Android, or Apple's iOS devices, whether the devices were sold by Sprint or another carrier.
Google Apps for Business began eight years ago under the name "Google Apps for your Domain" and has since grown to serve 5 million business customers. Google Apps for Business has about 6,000 resellers. Sprint will likely become the largest wireless carrier in the group.
"I doubt this will be any kind of exclusive deal," Kagan said. "I would look for Google to get into this kind of partnership with other providers, if not other wireless carriers."