Office 365, Microsoft's Cloud-Based Productivity Suite, Now Globally Available
At a New York launch event on Tuesday, Microsoft announced that Office 365 is now officially available in 40 markets globally.
Tuesday's launch marks a coronation for the widely anticipated successor to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). "We're here to introduce Microsoft Office 365, where Microsoft Office meets the cloud," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the event.
With Office 365, Microsoft is offering various plans in which customers can subscribe to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. Higher-end SKUs enable customers to subscribe to Office 2010 as part of a monthly fee. The plans range in price from $2 per month, which gives kiosk workers access to Exchange Online, to $27 a month for the top SKU that includes Microsoft Office Professional Plus and PC-to-PC calling with Lync Voice.
More important is that the desktop Office suite integrates with the new service regardless of how it's licensed, although it must be Office 2007 SP2 or later. Ballmer talked up the collaboration capabilities in Office 365, where users can simultaneously edit documents using the traditional Office suite or Office Web Apps.
Ballmer also highlighted the fact that while Microsoft has its sights on large enterprises, small and medium businesses are a prime target of Office 365. He pointed out that 70 percent of the beta testers were SMBs and that two-thirds of global job growth comes from small and medium businesses. "To compete, small and medium-sized businesses do need an edge, an edge that doesn't require huge upfront capital investment or complex IT systems to manage and maintain," Ballmer said.
Microsoft said it has signed on 20 global service providers to offer Office 365, including Bell Canada, Intuit Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Telefonica S.A., Telstra Corp. and Vodafone Group Plc.
Paul Rowe, vice president of marketing and business development at Bell Canada, said in an interview that he is bullish that there will be an immediate spike in demand for Office 365. "We are expecting a fast adoption rate of Office 365," Rowe said. "We have over 400,000 small and midsized customers and we are launching Office 365 in August to those customers. We will bundle it with our voice, Internet and value-added services."
Rowe emphasized that SMBs are the primary target for Office 365. "SMBs will see the fastest uptake, absolutely," he said. "Some large customers will use this product but it will be a hybrid model where they integrate with some of their own IT messaging and collaboration systems."
Others said there's plenty of interest from larger enterprises, as well. Dave Cutler, general manager of Chicago-based Slalom Consulting, is among those. "We are kind of seeing interest across the board," Cutler said in an interview. "We've seen sales all the way up from the largest customers. We don't see it as a phenomenon on one specific market."
Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.