CLOUD COMPUTING

Microsoft and telecoms giant HKT usher in advanced mobile 'cloud' services for SMEs in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 October, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 October, 2015, 7:00am

US technology giant Microsoft has teamed up with HKT, Hong Kong's biggest telecommunications network operator, to accelerate adoption of the "cloud computing" version of its popular Office software among the city's more than 300,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises.

With high-speed fibre-optic broadband coverage extending to more than 80 per cent of commercial buildings in the city, HKT was named by Microsoft on Thursday as its first Hong Kong cloud solutions provider (CSP) partner, offering extensive technical support and other services to their target customers. 

Horace Chow Chok-kee, the general manager at Microsoft Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post that the company's CSP programme would deliver "more integrated, end-to-end services" to SMEs, especially those taking initial steps into a cloud-computing environment where the business software resides online.

"We're seeing strong demand for secure, mobile and full-featured cloud-based solutions from SMEs," Chow said.

Cloud computing enables companies and consumers to buy, lease, sell or distribute online a range of software and other digital resources as an on-demand service, just like electricity from a power grid. 

These resources are kept and managed inside data centres. "Cloud" refers to the internet as depicted in computer network diagrams.

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Technology research firm IDC has forecast total spending on cloud services in Hong Kong will reach US$685 million by 2017, up from an estimated US$251 million in 2013.

Microsoft's main enterprise cloud products include Azure, Dynamics CRM and Office 365, the cloud version of its popular productivity software which can be used on almost any internet-connected laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Office 365 Is Microsoft's fastest-growing commercial product worldwide, with revenue of US$5.9 billion in the company's financial year ended June 30. 

With subscription prices starting at HK$78 a month per user, the new "HKT x Office 365" business cloud service launched on Thursday offers each user in SMEs an e-mail account with corporate domain identity that is integrated with Microsoft Outlook, cloud storage, installation service, round-the-clock local hotline support, free application updates, administrative tools, various security measures, and workshops and training.

Chow said the previous Office 365-based alliances with HKT and other local fixed-line network operators, such as Hong Kong Broadband Network, announced a few years ago were largely reseller arrangements which provided no value-added services, unlike the new CSP programme.

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HKT, the telecommunications services arm of tycoon Richard Li Tzar-kai's PCCW Group, already has more than 100,000 existing cloud customers among Hong Kong's SME sector.

"Since 2012, we have launched more than 30 cloud-based SME solutions for four major industries: trading and manufacturing, retail, food and beverage, and professional services," Tom Chan, the managing director at HKT's commercial group, said.

Chan added that a simple "per-user-per-month subscription model has replaced costly upfront investment", allowing SMEs to scale operations according to their business needs.

Government data shows that there were about 320,000 SMEs in Hong Kong at the end of June. These enterprises accounted for more than 98 per cent of all businesses in Hong Kong. 

Manufacturing enterprises with fewer than 100 employees and non-manufacturing businesses with fewer than 50 staff are considered SMEs.

HKT and Microsoft said they will also offer 200 free licenses of HKT x Office 365 business cloud services to new start-ups and social media enterprises for a 12-month period. Those eligible are businesses operating for less than two years that are not existing Office 365 users.

Microsoft also helped launched on Thursday more than 25 new laptops and tablets running Windows 10 from hardware partners including Lenovo, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Asus.

Chow said Office 2016, the latest and most secure version of its productivity software that is offered with Office 365, runs more seamlessly on Windows 10-based devices.

The new Microsoft-brand Windows 10 devices that the company launched earlier this week will be available in Hong Kong this quarter in time for the busy Christmas shopping season, Chow said.