Optus has flagged plans to launch a web-based fax service later this year as part of an expanded suite of cloud offerings to the small business market.
The service, which was hosted within the Optus OfficeApps suite, enabled small businesses to port their existing fax number and to send and receives faxes through email or a web portal.
Though similar email-based fax services have existed for the better part of a decade, Rohan Ganeson, managing director of Optus' small and medium business group, said the feature had remained a prevalent request among the telco's small business customers.
"The issue is about number portability and the ability to send and receive under the one suite," he said.
"A lot of customers have requested it - the big question is how many fundamentally take it up but it's early stages at this point."
Communication, operate and promote
The fax service would become one of many offerings that formed OfficeApps, which Optus launched in March this year as a resold version of Google Apps.
Ganeson said Optus had planned its application suite roadmap based around communication, productivity and marketing offerings for small businesses in the 30-40 employee "sweet spot".
Flowing on from the launch of Google Apps earlier in the year, Optus' next application launch would include a mobile security and device management platform from next month and a backup and restore function for smartphones and tablets that would be offered with tiered storage prices.
A web SMS capability, similar to the fax offering, would be provided later this year with a view to interacting with the Google Apps products without web access.
Other applications slated included more integrated unified communications, productivity applications based around payroll and a marketing product that would track promotional expenditure by companies based on the ads they bought through the TrueLocal classifieds group.
"You've seen the Yellow Pages effectively go backwards, not just in Australia but globally and this is an area where there's a strong need for pay-for-performance marketing - not just a catalogue-based website but the ability for customers to be able to track leads and in-bound and track the effectiveness of the ad dollars spent," Ganeson said.
Bruce Akhurst, chief executive of Telstra's Sensis division which operates Yellow Pages and other classifieds products, recently expressed a similar offering.
As part of Optus' reseller agreement with Google, it could feasibly re-offer many of the applications already built on and offered over the Google Apps Marketplace.
However, Ganeson said the company would look to leverage third-party software only where needed.
Like Telstra's recently unfurled platform for the Microsoft Office365 cloud productivity suite, Optus reselling Google Apps came at a premium monthly cost for each user over the search giant's vanilla service hosted and supported out of the US.
Ganeson said local support and migration services for small businesses to OfficeApps justified the cost.
The company was yet to reveal the premium charges for additional applications.
Unbound from telco
OfficeApps had been used to strongly promote Optus' existing carriage services but Ganeson said the SMB Group's view had been largely to attract as many customers as possible.
"In an NBN world the company could have someone else's carriage, and yet we want to have the over-the-top relationship with them as well so we will have a range of solutions that work tightly with the carriage through to loosely with the carriage," he said.
A major incentive to bundle the carriage and hosted services was the unmetered data, although this was only offered by Optus if the company had mobile and fixed broadband services under the same accounts.
Ganeson also promoted continued competition in the hosting space from smaller rivals, including TPG which last week made its first moves into the cloud hosting market with the $12.8 million acquisition of services provider IntraPower.
"I would hope that the likes of TPG and Dodo's of the world continue to innovate because they have a particular segment of the market in the wholesale space from us that they serve differently," Ganeson said.
"Naturally the big guys like Optus, we have the ability to partner globally and also put a lot more investment into our digital life."