imageLast night we officially announced Office 365, which is the next generation of cloud services – bringing together Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Lync (previously known as Office Communications Server) and Office (on both the web and your PC). And the good news is that there will be an education specific version of it.

As with most of our announcements, the product release is scheduled for next year although we haven’t announced dates, but we did announce a public beta programme that you can sign up to and start using.

Here’s some of the key information, summarised from mass of data published on the web:

Summary of Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products with the latest version of our desktop software and companion Web Apps. Office 365 is designed to meet the needs of organisations of all sizes — from independent professionals to small, midsize and large businesses and from government agencies to educational institutions — helping them save time, money and free up valued resources.

Office 365 Key Benefits

  • Access to e-mail, documents, contacts and calendars on nearly any device
  • Simple and highly secure collaboration with colleagues and others within and outside of your organisation
  • Works seamlessly with Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Lync
  • Business-class features, such as IT-level phone support, financially backed 99.9% uptime, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and robust security and privacy controls and standards
  • Comprehensive solutions, such as desktop productivity applications, portals, extranets, external websites, instant messaging (IM), voiceconferencing and videoconferencing, webconferencing, e-mail, voice mail and unified messaging

What’s in Office 365

  • Microsoft Office
    The world’s leading productivity tool on the desktop (Office Professional Plus) and on the Web (Office Web Apps) now seamlessly connected and delivered with cloud services — for a comprehensive productivity experience across the PC, phone and browser.
  • Exchange Online
    Cloud-based e-mail, calendar and contacts with the most current anti-virus and anti-spam solutions. Includes the ability to get e-mail on virtually any mobile phone and options for voice mail, unified messaging and archiving.
  • Office SharePoint Online
    Cloud-based service for creating sites to connect colleagues, partners and customers. Includes enterprise social networking and customization options.
  • Lync Online
    Cloud-based IM, presence, and online meeting experiences with screen sharing, and voiceconferencing and videoconferencing

Office 365 for Education

Cloud-based services for colleges can help save money and give students access to familiar, next-generation productivity tools — while helping you free up resources. By eliminating the time and effort spent managing servers, IT staff can deliver the latest services to students while still maintaining control.

Benefits

  • Large 25GB mailboxes and the ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
  • Anywhere access to e-mail, important documents, contacts and calendar on nearly any device, including PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry
  • Works with the programmes students know and use most — Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote
  • Student access to Office Web Apps for viewing, sharing and light editing of documents
  • Team sites to share, manage and search for information and resources
  • Industry-leading, always-up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spam solutions
  • Optional student access to 25 GB of free online storage on Windows Live SkyDrive
  • Latest version of Microsoft Live@edu, which has thousands of education institutions and millions of student users today

And the good news is that this is now the roadmap for Live@edu, as we expand it well beyond the email system that many people use today.