AT&T Inc. this week announced a new effort it's calling the AT&T Partner Exchange, which sounds dodgy if you're married but isn't as risky as you might think.
Kidding aside, what AT&T is doing is giving solutions providers -- value added resellers, regional IT shops, managed services providers -- a way to add AT&T services such as mobility managed services, cloud and networking solutions, to their own apps and services.
The kicker? The solution provider takes ownership of the whole end-to-end sales and service experience.
In the same way AT&T has started loosening up its network-based application programming interfaces (APIs) for mobile developers, the operator is giving these solutions providers its APIs to let them manage, troubleshoot, provision network services, etc. on AT&T's network.
But why would AT&T want to be inside a bundle of services rather than own the customer?
"First was our realization that the marketplace is changing, and the way some of these companies in the mid-market and below are buying services differently," says Brooks McCorcle, president of AT&T’s new Emerging Business Markets organization. "They want to buy integrated bundles from one company and solutions providers have become trusted advisors to these companies."
Years of hand-wringing about how to reach small and mid-sized enterprises, as well as the constant fear of being relegated to a "dumb pipe," seem to have been addressed in one fell swoop here. By being more open, McCorcle and company can provide the stuff that AT&T is known for in a way that seems more like a plan from Amazon.com.
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