Bell Canada is the first of the big North American carriers to partner with Microsoft on its Microsoft Online Services initiative. The alliance is aimed at offering hosted — Software as a Service (SaaS), or what the release calls “cloud-based” — business services (including Exchange and SharePoint) to business users, especially smaller businesses.
Microsoft seems to us to be resurrecting Connected Services Framework (CSF) a nugget at a time. The original CSF concept was an implementable carrier architecture, and that morphed into a service set before being pulled. Now, Microsoft may be looking at things like Online Services and its newly announced Azure appliance to create some new service relationships with operators. Five years ago, operators saw this sort of thing as an exploitation, but they’re now more concerned about over-the-top disintermediation than vendors who want to use the operator as a kind of service storefront.
Given the trends we’re seeing in the service layer, this has a decent chance of spreading to other large Tier 1 providers, but we think that the current strategy may trap Microsoft in the SMB space, leaving it out of the larger content and service-layer deals.