Microsoft made its long-awaited move to package the hosted version of Office
with the hosted versions of Lync, SharePoint and Exchange with the unveiling on
Tuesday of Office 365.
Office 365, scheduled to
ship next year, is now available in limited beta form in 13 countries and
regions and includes Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and
Office 365 for companies with fewer than 25 employees will cost $6 per user
per month. For larger organizations, Microsoft
will offer additional options, including for the first time the on-premise
Office Professional Plus on a subscription basis for $24 per user per month,
along with the other suite components.
Larger organizations can sign up for some accounts that start as low as $2
per user per month for a bare-bones option of basic e-mail for employees who
only need that functionality, as well as for more full-featured accounts, such
as the one that includes Office Professional Plus, for other types of employees,
such as knowledge workers and executives.
The beta program will be expanded progressively beyond the initial several
thousand companies testing it.
Later, Office 365 will also include Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, and an
Office 365 version for educational institutions will also be released next year
and will be an upgrade to the Live@edu hosted collaboration and communication
Office 365 is the next version of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online
Standard Suite (BPOS), which includes the hosted versions of Exchange 2007,
SharePoint 2007and Office Communications Online but not Office Web Apps.
The hosted versions of Exchange and SharePoint in Office 365 will be based on
the 2010 edition of their software, while Lync is the next version of Office
Communications Server, and Lync's online version is an upgrade to Office
Office 365 will also act as a unifying brand and unifying technology base for
the various cloud-based
suites Microsoft has developed in recent years, such as BPOS, Office Web Apps
Overall, Office 365 will offer hosted productivity applications -- word
processing, spreadsheet and presentations -- e-mail, calendar, contacts, instant
messaging, Web meetings, videoconferencing, intranet and Web site creator
Office 365 also comes with a 99.9% uptime guarantee and access via a variety
of browsers, computers
and mobile devices, including iPhones,
Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.
At first glance, Office 365 seems a stronger competitor to hosted rival
communication and collaboration suites like Google
Apps that have in recent years put significant competitive pressure on
At a press event, Microsoft officials stressed that Office 365 is Microsoft's
strongest statement yet that it believes the cloud-based software delivery model
is the future for its products.
Microsoft customers are no longer asking whether they should move their
on-premise software to the cloud, but when and how, said Kurt DelBene, president
of the Microsoft Office Division.
"We're at a unique pivot point in the adoption of cloud services," he
Office 365 has also been designed to interact natively with the on-premise
versions of SharePoint, Exchange, Lync and Office, said Chris Capossela, senior
vice president for the Information Worker Product Management Group.