Microsoft Shows SAAS, Launches Exchange Online, SharePoint Online

Microsoft's Stephen Elop will be joined by customers and partners to unveil Microsoft Exchange Online and SharePoint Online at an event in San Francisco today. These suites are SAAS versions of Microsoft's classic messaging and collaboration suites designed to compete with Google Apps and other cloud computing products. The enterprise applications will enable corporate workers to work together without downloading apps to their desktops and computers or cluttering corporate servers.

Update: Microsoft today will formally launch Exchange Online and SharePoint Online from beta at an event in San Francisco, Chris Capossela, senior vice president for Microsoft's Information Worker division, told eWEEK Nov. 17.

Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, which for the last nine months have been offered for companies with less than 5,000 seats, are now available to businesses of all sizes in the United States.
The Microsoft universe has been expecting the SAAS (software as a service) versions of the company's classic productivity and collaboration suites for several months as part of the Microsoft Online Services portfolio.
Exchange Online and SharePoint Online are available separately or as a suite together with Office Live Meeting for conferencing, Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services and Microsoft Office Communications Online for instant messaging and presence.

For Pics of the Microsoft Online Services UIs, Click Here

Pricing for Exchange Online and SharePoint Online ranges from $2 to $15 per user, per month, depending on individual worker's needs. For example, a roving, "deskless" worker who needs only to access Outlook e-mail from Exchange will pay $2 per month, Capossela told eWEEK in an interview before the launch today.

For $15 per user, per month, a worker would have access to Exchange, full SharePoint Online capabilities and the Office LiveMeeting Web conferencing application. This is a departure from what Capossela described as the "one size fits all" apps packages and pricing of competing SAAS solutions such as Google Apps, whose premier edition costs $50 per user, per year.

The news comes just three weeks after Microsoft officials unveiled Azure at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference.
Currently in a technical preview, Azure is Microsoft's vision of Windows as a cloud computing solution, where customers will procure the same Windows applications through the Internet as a service instead of downloaded to their PCs and servers. Azure includes Live Services, .NET Services, SQL Services, SharePoint Services and Dynamics CRM Services.

Online Services will complement this platform and will enable Microsoft to compete with Google in SAAS. Microsoft has been chided for being slow to move to the cloud, but the introduction of Azure and progress of Online Services could temper the jibes.
Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division at Microsoft, will be joined by officials from a cadre of customers and partners at the event in San Francisco today.
Capossela said Microsoft has sold more than a half million seats for Microsoft Online Services, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Office Communications Online. Customers include Eddie Bauer, Pitney Bowes, CG Healthcare Solutions LLC, Clean Power Research LLC and Fair Isaac.
Moreover, since unveiling the Online Services portfolio at its Worldwide Partner Conference in July, more than 1,500 companies have enrolled in the Microsoft Partner Program for Online Services.
Partners include Cemaphore, which has created an e-mail synchronization product that lets Microsoft customers port e-mail easily between on-premise installations of Exchange and the new SAAS Exchange Online.
At the event, Microsoft will also introduce plans to offer an "IT management and security solution" for Microsoft Online Services in the next year. Think SAAS versions of Windows System Center applications.