Office 365 Is Integral to Microsoft's Future: 10 Reasons Why

News Analysis: Office 365 is now live and the service, which finally brings Office deep into the cloud, is vastly important to Microsoft's future. If it is successful, it could help block the threat posed by Google Apps and prove that Microsoft is serious about becoming-at least in part-a cloud computing company.

On June 28,Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially announced the availability of Office 365 after a long beta period. Now both small businesses and larger enterprises will be able to access the service after paying a per-user per-month fee. Those prices range from $6 per user per month to $27 per user per month, depending on the needs of the respective organization.

As expected, Microsoft made a big deal over the launch of Office 365. The company rightfully sees the platform as a key component in its future plans, and it's doing everything it can to build up the excitement and interest around the platform.

That excitement and interest cannot be underestimated. Office 365 is integral to Microsoft's future. If the platform fails, it could set off a chain reaction that could have profoundly damaging effects on the software giant in the coming years. If it's a success, it could prove to be one of the most important launches Microsoft has offered up in years.

Simply put, Office 365 is everything to Microsoft right now, and there's good reason for that.

Read on to find out whyOffice 365 is integral to Microsoft's future.

1. It must prove Microsoft "gets" the cloud

During the June 28 event launching Office 365, Microsoft's CEO said that the platform "is where Office meets the cloud." While some might call that comment a throwaway, it says something about Microsoft and where the company is headed. Office 365 is designed to prove that the software giant understands the cloud and wants to be a key player there. If the platform is successful, it will achieve that goal. But if it fails, Microsoft could be in for trouble. Office 365 must make the enterprise believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Microsoft "gets" the cloud.

2. It's Microsoft's best answer to Google Apps for Business

Currently, companies that want to take advantage of cloud services can invest in Google Apps for Business. That platform gives access to Gmail, Google's Calendar platform and Google Docs. It costs $50 per user per year. By launching Office 365, Microsoft has made it clear that it believes its new platform is its best answer to Google Apps for Business. Now, the company must hope the enterprise agrees.

3. It keeps the enterprise engaged

Speaking of the enterprise, it's important to note how integral that market segment is to Microsoft. Over the years, it has been the corporate world that has buoyed Microsoft's profits and ensured that the company stays a dominant force in the software space. With Office 365, Microsoft is hoping to keep those enterprise users engaged and buying its office productivity applications, whether it's in the cloud or on premises. If that's not integral to Microsoft's future, what is?

4. It doesn't focus on one enterprise segment

Microsoft's current flagship desktop software products, including Office and Windows, appeal to companies of all sizes. And that has proved to be integral to the company's success over the years. With Office 365, Microsoft is saying that the new platform will similarly appeal to companies both big and small. That's important. By not focusing on any single enterprise segment, Microsoft will have a much better chance of getting Office 365 off the ground. At this point, getting it off the ground means everything.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...