Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Office 365 MVP Brett Hill as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office 365" series. Brett is a newly awarded Office 365 MVP.  He spends a lot of time at Office365Answers.com where he’s building out content on Office 365 and BPOS  including an Office 365 Newsletter. Before starting his own business, he worked on the BPOS / Office 365 team as a program manager for Partner technical readiness.  His  recent work in includes several Office 365 service descriptions,  Office 365 Identity, end user training, and Microsoft Online Trial Guide and 20 webcasts on the Microsoft Online team blog.   

Microsoft has announced the updated services platform, Office 365, should be available this calendar year. Even so, with the recently announced January 2011 Service Updates they continue to update the existing platform, Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) with additional features. 

This gets my attention for a couple of reasons.  When Microsoft told the world details about Office 365 in Nov 2010, they essentially turned up the heat on themselves to get the services out. As a result, you might expect that with the complexity of the services and intensified importance to offer them commercially, that all resources would be focused on Office 365 rather than BPOS.  Releasing new features for BPOS while driving toward Office 365 is very encouraging as it tells me that Microsoft is still committed to improving the services for existing and new customers.

Another reason this is interesting is Microsoft doesn’t have to do this. When you sign up for BPOS, Microsoft doesn’t commit contractually to providing updates to the services – but they have.  In fact, if you look at what they’ve added since the services were released, it’s pretty impressive.  Here’s a sample of features that are available now that were not available when the services were first released – and the price did NOT go up. (When was the last time you had a service that improved and didn’t charge more?)


· 25 GB Exchange Mailbox by default


· Increase attachment size from 20MB to 30 MB


· Allow 250 anonymous users per Live Meeting (up from 15)


· Max file size increased to 250MB for SharePoint Online


· Max number of SharePoint site collection increased from 20 to 100


· Support for up to 30,000 users in the Admin Console


· Management of Users with Different UPN and SMTP Address


· Updated Live Meeting client and Outlook plug in


· Support added for Outlook 2003


· Sign on Client for Mac


· Partner name on Invoicing


· SharePoint Auditing Enabled


· New countries and languages supported


· User configurable Mailbox Access Permissions with Powershell


· User administration with Powershell (create, license, change password, etc)


· SMTP Relay supported


· Support for external journaling services by Exchange Online


· Hosted Blackberry Administration Center added


To be fair, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is not doing this entirely because they are simply being gracious.  You can imagine how this goes. Updates like Blackberry support and Outlook 2003 make the list as they are driven by customer requirements.  Features like adding Powershell commands probably reduce support calls as well as enable partners and customers to automate features.  Features like increasing the number of users from 15 to 250 per Live Meeting event? I still can’t get over that value and have no clue what drove the decision  - but that capability alone is well worth the $10 per month.

The point is that with the most recent service updates for BPOS, Microsoft is saying they are continuing to improve BPOS for customers even though they are moving full speed ahead on Office 365.  To me, that’s evidence that Microsoft is serious about this business and bodes well for not only current and future BPOS customers, but Microsoft as a whole as they move more and more business to an online model.