PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 14, 2007 – Microsoft and Comcast today announced a new service that brings the benefits of corporate-class productivity applications to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The offering, called Microsoft Communication Services from Comcast, delivers powerful productivity applications such as Microsoft Office Outlook and SharePoint Services that can help SMBs reduce costs and improve operational efficiency while extending the boundaries of the “office” to anywhere there’s Internet access.
PressPass discussed today’s announcement with Michael O’Hara, general manager for Communications Sector at Microsoft.
PressPass: What did you announce today?
O’Hara: The small business market is the single most underserved market in the United States from a technology perspective. We’re announcing the availability today of a new service from Comcast that provides many of the same productivity tools such as Microsoft Outlook and document sharing that are found within the walls of Microsoft and thousands of other large companies worldwide. The service, called Microsoft Communication Services from Comcast, will package productivity applications including Office Outlook and SharePoint Services, along with other services from Comcast such as voice, broadband and cable. Microsoft Connected Services Framework is being used as the service delivery platform for the new service.
PressPass: Some in the corporate world might be surprised to hear that a number of business community members don’t have tools such as Outlook and document sharing. What have been the roadblocks to adoption?
O’Hara: From a cost perspective, most small businesses don’t have the expertise or resources to buy and manage a server on an ongoing basis. For a company with 10 or 20 employees, the numbers just don’t work in most cases. With this service, Comcast will host and manage the infrastructure and will bill a monthly fee that’s included along with other Comcast services. There are no upfront costs, no need for IT staff and no need for a technical consultant.
Apart from cost, usability is also a huge barrier. As a small business owner, the term “productivity” is an oxymoron if none of your employees know how to use the applications. As part of the market research process in developing this service, Comcast found that an overwhelming majority of small business employees had a high degree of familiarity with Microsoft Office applications. Small businesses that sign up for the service can anticipate almost immediate productivity gains.
PressPass: You mentioned Connected Services Framework. How is it being used?
O’Hara: Connected Services Framework will help Comcast deploy Microsoft Communication Services into its existing infrastructure and provision new and existing Comcast users quickly and cost-effectively. It also lays a foundation to integrate future services more easily into Comcast’s core billing, provisioning and support infrastructure.
PressPass: How significant is this partnership for Microsoft?
O’Hara: This deal is important to Microsoft for in a number of ways. Comcast is the second-largest broadband provider in the United States and is aggressively pushing itself as a provider of business services for SMBs. That they selected Microsoft as the basis for their offering is a strong endorsement of the strides we’ve made over the past several years in working with service providers.
It’s also a great real-world example of the software plus services vision coming to fruition. While having Exchange Server and SharePoint Server on-premise works great for many businesses, it’s clearly not an ideal model for small businesses. Working with valuable partners such as Comcast to extend Microsoft applications to a wider audience and meet the needs of small businesses is a win-win-win. Both Microsoft and Comcast reach new customers, while small business owners get access to tools that can help improve their businesses.