Google greeted Microsoft’s Oct. 19 launch of Office 365 with silence-declining to discuss what is essentially Microsoft’s latest in a line of repackaging and repositioning its collaboration software for the cloud.
Launched to limited beta and slated for a 2011 release, Office 365 doesn’t include a single new software product. Instead, Office 365 is “the brand for the company’s next generation in cloud productivity,” Microsoft said.
That cloud productivity software, which Microsoft provisions from its own servers in data centers, includes Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online instant messaging.
Kiss goodbye the moniker Business Productivity Online Suite, and say hello to a more rounded suite that adds Web-based e-mail, document, presentation and spreadsheet functionality. The BPOS included hosted versions of Exchange and SharePoint only.
When asked if Office 365 was just a BPOS repackaged and remarketed, Microsoft told eWEEK: “While Office 365 builds on our strong foundation with BPOS, OLSB [Office Live Small Business] and [email protected], it is much more than an upgrade. It’s a new approach to cloud applications altogether. It brings Office desktop software and Office Web Apps to our business cloud services for the first time; it brings more complete versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync, and a new platform with single sign-in, federated identity, scripting and more. And it introduces a new approach with a variety of new plans designed for organizations of all sizes.”
Office 365 adds a lot pricing variables that may leave people wondering whether to use the rival Google Apps or Zoho collaboration suites for $50 per user per year.
Small businesses with 25 or fewer employees can pay $6 per user per month for Office Web Apps, along with hosted versions of Exchange and SharePoint.
Larger enterprises can choose from products costing anywhere from $2 per user per month for basic e-mail to $24 per user per month for Office Professional Plus with e-mail, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, Web portals, voice and video conferencing, and more.
Larger businesses may also pay $16 per user per month for a tweener version comparable to the $6 per user per month plan for smaller companies.
That Google declined to validate Office 365 with a response is a testament to Google’s view that Microsoft’s move is an exercise in marketing muscle. Three and a half years after its launch, Google Apps is being used by more than 3 million user
Zoho software evangelist Raju Vegesna said he, too, viewed the move as a repackaging of existing products, something Microsoft has been accustomed to over the years.
Noting that Microsoft offered no new product with Office 365, Vegesna told eWEEK Zoho didn’t feel the need to rush a product of its own to market to answer Microsoft.
It will be business as usual as Zoho continues to serve cloud collaboration and enterprise applications for 3.5 million users.
Still, while Google and Zoho are unlikely to release any new products in response to Office 365, they may change their pricing schemes if Microsoft customers demonstrate with dollars that they like the software giant’s new pricing.
Indeed, Microsoft has already secured a new contract to migrate about 100 state government e-mail systems in California to Microsoft’s cloud product. That covers 200,000 state employees.