T-Suite graduated from a beta, launched last June, to a commercial service today.
Telstra hopes its customers will choose to rent their business software each month through an online site instead of buying it on CD-ROMs.
Although its Office programs were not in evidence, Microsoft is providing hosted versions of its Exchange mail server, Dynamic CRM package and SharePoint collaboration software.
Also on offer are hosted security packages from MessageLabs (recently bought by Symantec) and McAfee, file-sharing utility Skoot (an enterprise version of YouSendIt) and Telstra's remote back-up services.
But it was the smaller, local companies such as WORKetc, which writes billing software, and a HR software service called Workplace Guardian that Telstra highlighted at the launch today.
Workplace Guardian offers online employment contracts, policies and form letters verified by lawyers Clayton Utz that are updated to comply with Australian industrial relations laws.
But the number one business software suite, Microsoft's Office, was nowhere to be seen. Organisations will continue to buy the software as they always have.
Microsoft communications sector director Kevin Brough said the launch of an online version of Office on T-Suite will be "jointly announced in due course".
"If it was available, we'd be launching it," Brough said.
He said Microsoft will train its local software makers through an incubator to sell applications through software-as-a-service portals such as T-Suite around the world.
Brough said they need new technology to help them move to hosted software distribution systems
"Their models need to change. They are used to selling a CD."
Telstra Business group managing director Deena Shiff said there were about 50 vendors who will soon provide their software on T-Suite.
"We intend to partner with a lot of local (software makers) to bring the best applications in this market," Shiff said.
Next up is e-health, education and accounting software services such as New Zealand's Xero that has account reconciliation with some Australian banks.
Shiff said Telstra began investing in rented software before the global financial crisis.
"Difficult times have beset small businesses," she said. "It has become terribly relevant to use tools with low upfront costs, with no big investments in hardware and software licences up front. We did not anticipate just how relevant this would be."
She said T-Suite will appeal to software makers s because of its "broad distribution and reach".
A Telstra spokesman said the carrier expected the 4000 hits a week that T-Suite had during testing to rise significantly.
And Telstra will consider bundling applications once it learns about customer preferences, he said.
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