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SMB Tech Roll-up: Microsoft BPOS Goes Lite, iPads for SMBs?

Published by: CMSWire
Written by: David Roe

In a week that saw the release of the iPad, AT&T has promised to spend, spend, spend on SMB networks and applications, SharePoint gets an economical workflow monitor and there are rumors about a Microsoft BPOS ‘lite’.

Money For SMBs From AT&T

Seems someone in AT&T is listening to SMBs. And if you were to take a recent statement by AT&T at face value whoever it is that has been listening is going to spend US $1bn this year to scale its delivery of applications, mobility and cloud services with the goal of getting SMBs back to work.

The end result, the company says, will be the expansion of small business services across the US. There are no newbies here, but if they do what they say they’re going to do it really should make a difference.

AT&T says it will deploy platforms and systems across its 22-state US footprint to accelerate the provisioning of multiple products and services. It also plans to increase broadband speeds up to 24 Mbps. Other plans include:

  • Developing its current portfolio of flexible collaboration services and application
  • Enhancing mobile solutions, applications and integrated devices to companies of all sizes, but with a focus on SMBs
  • Build out its global network

Nice if they do it, but a lot of people are skeptical as it’s not the first time promises have been made.

Is BPOS Getting ‘Lite'?

A recent blog entry in ZDNet says there is a ‘lite’ version of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) on the way this year. This new ‘lite’ version will target SMB customers who Microsoft has been flirting a lot with recently.

BPOS is a productivity and collaboration suite offering cloud-hosted bundles of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.

In February, Microsoft removed a job posting seeking a manager for a new hosted offering intended to bring email and collaboration services to SMBs.

According to text of the posting, this will be part of the 'next wave' of services targeting professional individuals and smaller organisations, offering Microsoft's best collaboration, communications and productivity services.

Word is that it will be unveiled in the second half of the year so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Monitoring SharePoint Workflows Cheaply

It wouldn’t be a week without some new SharePoint related release. This time it’s the turn of Virto Software which has has released a new Microsoft SharePoint web part for monitoring workflows called Virto Workflow Monitor,  and it is compatible with both SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010.

Virto Workflow Monitor is a simple component that allows administrators to monitor how workflows are running, and detect any errors in them.

It enables quick switches between the list view and a workflow details view, generates a number of workflow related reports, highlights errors and provides the administrator with the tools for workflow and data management such as sorting, filtering and group operations.The new web part costs US $255.

SMBs Will Beat Enterprises To Cloud?

To London now, where K2 Advisory, an IT business consultancy has just released a new report entitled Cloud Computing: A Step Change for IT Services, which finds that cloud adoption rates by smaller organisations of public cloud and SaaS services from vendors such as Amazon and Google will outpace the adoption rate of enterprises by a factor of two.

By 2015 for organisations below 1,000 employees, a third to half of IT spend is likely to be with public cloud providers, the report says.

The biggest challenge for enterprise adoption of cloud computing lies not with security concerns as might be expected but with existing investment in legacy systems, and with the potential impact on the internal IT department.

Again, looks like IT departments are going to get the bullet because it also says that the rise of cloud computing will dispel with the need to retain internal technological expertise with IT services delivered by external suppliers. Interested in more?

CRM For BlackBerry

Meanwhile, Maximizer which produces simple, accessible customer relationship management and mobile CRM solutions for SMBs, has just launched Maximizer CRM 11.

Maximizer Mobile gives the user real-time information in the field including customers’ history, leads, sales opportunities, dashboards, customer service cases, documents and schedules.

This latest update to Maximizer Mobile features a redesigned tabbed interface, tighter integration with native BlackBerry applications, and more features that enable deeper interaction with real-time customer data.

iPad Does The Business, Or Not?

And speaking of mobile, it wouldn’t be right to wind up the week without some reference to the recent iPad release.

There’s been quite a bit of mixed reaction to it with almost as many opinions about it as there are iPads. However, all seem to agree that in its current format it is not yet a fully furnished business tool because of a shortage of available business applications.

However, Scott Steinberg, founder of technology research and consulting firm TechSavvyGlobal, told the E-Commerce Times this week that he envisions a role for iPads in the SMB world, despite the lack of a camera for video conferencing.

"It's a beautiful piece of tech that takes advantage of virtualized solutions, CRM, invoicing, as well as the fact that it makes a tremendous device for demonstrating Internet applications — ones that aren't based on Flash — or presentation materials in the form of videos and online services," he said.

Like many he believes it has the potential, but that will depend on Apple in the coming months. You just gotta’ have an opinion on this one so let us know.

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