Microsoft introduced Office 365, which combines Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online on a unified cloud platform.
Microsoft is taking its next step into the cloud with the beta
launch of Office 365, which combines Microsoft Office, SharePoint
Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online into a unified cloud platform.
The limited beta launch will take place among a few thousand companies
in 13 countries and regions, with general availability expected in
Although Microsoft built its fortune as a desktop-centric entity, the company has recently embraced an "all in" cloud strategy
A major component of that strategy involves offering a variety of
cloud-based IT services to corporations. The strategy comes at a time
when Microsoft finds many of its traditional offerings challenged by
Web-centric upstarts such as Salesforce.com and competing cloud
products along the lines of Google Docs.
For businesses, Microsoft has previously articulated its cloud
strategy in the form of its BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite),
which bundled products such as SharePoint Online. BPOS has now been
rebranded Office 365, and given added capabilities that should remove
all doubt about Microsoft's intentions as a cloud-applications host.
"Office 365 is the best of everything we know about productivity,
all in a single cloud service," Kurt DelBene, president of Microsoft's
Office Division, wrote in an Oct. 19 statement. "With Office 365, your
local bakery can get enterprise-caliber software and services for the
first time, while a multinational pharmaceutical company can reduce
costs and more easily stay current with the latest innovations."
For those smaller businesses with fewer than 25 employees, Microsoft
plans on offering an Office 365 suite with Office Web Apps, Exchange
Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online for $6 per month.
Office 365 for enterprises will include more granular pricing
options. For the monthly cost of $2 per user, midsize and large
businesses can equip their people with basic e-mail. More expensive
options include Microsoft Office Professional Plus desktop software
with e-mail, voicemail, enterprise social networking, Web portals and
other features for a monthly cost of $24 per user.
Those interested can sign up for the beta at Office365.com
Microsoft's plans for Office 365 over the next year include
integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, and an "education"
version of the platform tailored for school administrators and faculty.
The challenge for Microsoft will be to maintain its cloud services'
reliability, particularly with businesses that have been traditionally
skittish about the cloud. BPOS had previously experienced some outages
, despite Microsoft's attempts to strengthen its cloud offerings.
"When customers put their data into our system," Microsoft CEO Steve
Ballmer said during his keynote at the company's Worldwide Partner
Conference this summer, "when they entrust more and more of their data
and operations to us, there's the need to do a better job on
reliability, security, privacy."
However, Ballmer suggested at the time that Microsoft was capable of
handling the job. "We have learned a lot through running Windows Live,
Hotmail, Bing," he told the audience. "These are some of the highest
volume services run on the Internet today. When you run a highly
scaled, highly dynamic service, you need a whole new approach to
running a data center."