Microsoft made its biggest move into the internet-accessible world of "cloud" computing on Tuesday, taking the wraps off Office 365, a revamped online version of its Office software suite.
Today, at media events around the world, Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 is now available in 40 markets, and it brings together Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online in an always-up-to-date cloud service, at a monthly subscription.
The service was introduced in beta last year. Microsoft says that more than 20 service providers around the globe plan to bring Office 365 to their customers this year. Bell Canada, Intuit Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Telefonica S.A., Telstra Corp. and Vodafone Group Plc, among others, will package and sell Office 365 with their own services for small and midsize businesses.
"Great collaboration is critical to business growth, and because it?s so important, we believe the best collaboration technology should be available to everyone," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "With a few clicks, Office 365 levels the playing field, giving small and midsize businesses powerful collaboration tools that have given big businesses an edge for years."
Office 365 is available in a wide range of service plans.
With Office 365, people can stay on the "same page" using instant messaging and virtual meetings with people who are just down the hall or across the world. They can work on files and documents at the same time and share ideas as easily as they can share calendars.
Microsoft Office applications are at the heart of Office 365. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook and other Office applications connect to Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Lync to deliver a world-class solution for communication and collaboration.
Microsoft is building a partner ecosystem around Office 365, including systems integrators, software vendors, resellers and other partners. These companies will package Office 365 with their own services - from Web hosting and broadband to finance solutions and mobile services - and bring those new offerings to millions of small and midsize businesses globally.
Microsoft wants to push back against Google, which has stolen a small percentage of corporate customers with cheaper, web-only alternatives, which remove the need for companies to spend time on installing software or managing servers.
Microsoft built itself up on expensive versions of software installed on individual computers. The company is is now following a new strategy, which will
give the company smaller profit margins from web-based applications -- due to the cost of handling data and keeping up servers -- by grabbing a larger slice of companies' overall technology spending.
Microsoft said it will charge from $2 per user per month for basic email services to $27 per user per month for advanced offerings. Google charges a flat fee of $50 per user per year for its web-based Google Apps product, which offers email, calendars, word processing and more online.
Microsoft will host users' data remotely, and maintain all the servers in data centers. Unlike Google, it will also allow companies to put their data on dedicated servers should they choose, or keep the data on their own premises.