O2 is preparing a ‘big push’ on Microsoft and Nokia products to become the number one choice for business as BlackBerry continues to flounder.
The operator signed a one-year-deal with Microsoft in June to market Windows Phone 8 devices and launch Office 365 for business. O2’s head of small business, Paul Lawton, said the relationship was not a consequence of BlackBerry’s sharp decline, although he expects the Nokia/Microsoft alliance to ‘eat into its market share to a point’.
He told Mobile: ‘Microsoft will be one of the most interesting partnerships we’ll form in the b2b space over the next few years. Its opportunities have been further accelerated by Nokia’s partnership and investment, and we think the planets are aligned for a big O2 push on Nokia and Microsoft through 2014.’
Microsoft acquired Nokia in a $7.2 billion (£4.59 billion) deal in September and has sensed an opportunity in the b2b sector as BlackBerry’s stock nosedives. Nokia’s enterprise market share has grown to 11.5% in 18 months, placing it second to the Canadian manufacturer.
The affiliation between O2 and the American software maker has been successful thus far, with sales of Office 365 ‘doubling month on month’, despite its relative infancy. The service has only been available through O2’s direct channel up to this point, but Lawton confirmed channel partners and resellers will be able to offer the package to their business customers from the end of October.
O2 was taking ‘baby steps’ in the SME sector when Lawton was appointed 18 months ago, but an emphasis on digital packages like Office 365 has accelerated growth. Talking at the unveiling of the ‘Evolution of UK Life and Productivity’ report, a study carried out by the Centre of Economics and Business Research, he added: ‘Eighteen months ago we were focusing our ICT effort on a lot of larger enterprises and doing an excellent job of becoming a more professional service provider. In the SME market we started selling fixed line as well as mobile, but I think what’s accelerated massively over the last 12 months has been the idea of digital packages and services. Business customers can expect to see us launching a lot more digital applications over the next 12 months.’
The operator’s enterprise division has been working closely with Telefónica Digital to develop products for business customers, and the former TalkTalk managing director added that SMEs have an expectation rather than desire for ‘hardware, connectivity and applications’ in one all-encompassing package. He added: ‘Telefónica Digital has spent quite a lot of time forming partnerships and strategic alliances with established and up-and-coming application developers, and my big hope is that we can work with them to give our direct and indirect channels some real advantages to talk about with customers.
‘There’s growth, excitement and opportunity back in the SME sector, and this is the message we’re keen to get across.’
Author: Matthew Campelli