Microsoft Office 365 public beta now available

Microsoft's cloud-based Office suite, Office 365, was first announced back in October 2010. Following a limited beta test conducted with a few select businesses, Microsoft has now opened up the beta program to the public. Individuals that are interested in participating may visit the Office 365 webpage.

Office 365 is a subscription service that combines Office Web apps with familiar web-enabled tools, such as SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync. The service offers users email and calendaring services, collaboration on Office documents and websites, conferencing and instant messaging with colleagues, and the ability to access these services from almost any device or browser. Microsoft also offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee and data protection services including Microsoft's corporate antivirus solution, ForeFront Client Security.

There are two beta test programs available - one for small businesses of up to 25 employees, and one for mid to large enterprises of any size. The small business program comes with Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and an external website. The midsize to large enterprise offering offers email, voicemail, enterprise social networking, conferencing via voice and video, Web portals, and a subscription-based copy of Office Professional Plus. Upon the end of the beta test, the two monthly subscription services will go for $6 per user for small businesses, and $24 per user for midsize to large enterprises.

In addition to the public beta's launch, Microsoft has also introduced the Office 365 Marketplace. Users may use the Marketplace to personalize Office 365 with over 100 applications and 400 professional services. The content is offered by 16,000 Microsoft cloud partners.

The full press release is available here.

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15 Comments

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Any cloud project I know* = waste of time, I'll never ever use such anti-privacy thingy.

* exept cloud computing - BOINC.

They need to get more competitive with their pricing... otherwise, I guess it is fine. I see a lot of resistance to what essentially are legacy applications being hosted in the clouds.

azure.sapphire said,
They need to get more competitive with their pricing... otherwise, I guess it is fine. I see a lot of resistance to what essentially are legacy applications being hosted in the clouds.

The resistance will largely be for two reasons - security (locally-hosted applicatiuons are secure; cloud-hosted applications, by nature, are not) and more than a great deal of concern by SMB IT staffs worried about being replaced.

I'm not too sure how well enterprise customers will find it but I'm sure small businesses will jump on board if it means not having to deal with the complexities of IT as a result. If you're a small company of say 20 people then paying on a 'per user' basis is probably a whole heap cheaper than having a server plus a middleware stack plus setting up a internet connection with security settings so that on the road employees can have access to their emails on the road.

its funny when I here boohoo the idea sound like people who have never actually been into a business and understand what they actually want.

Mr Nom Nom's said,
I'm not too sure how well enterprise customers will find it but I'm sure small businesses will jump on board if it means not having to deal with the complexities of IT as a result. If you're a small company of say 20 people then paying on a 'per user' basis is probably a whole heap cheaper than having a server plus a middleware stack plus setting up a internet connection with security settings so that on the road employees can have access to their emails on the road.

its funny when I here boohoo the idea sound like people who have never actually been into a business and understand what they actually want.

Actually, if a small business is using a managed-services portal (such as Comcast Business Class or Verizon Internet Services for Small Business) it will be either little different or no different (in the case of Comcast and VZ's SMB offerings, the difference is, in fact, nil, as both already use Microsoft's MSP tools). Also, like the existing SMB toolkits, they work just as well with the desktop Office applications. (Each beta tester has 25 accounts for their *business* to use, and they can be all Web, all desktop, or a mix - desktop apps must be Office 2003 or later, but can be for any version of Windows back to XP, or any version of OS X back to Leopard; further, because Office 2003 is explicitly supported, Office 2003/2007 under WINE should work. As a typical admin would, I'm using the desktop version of the Office applications.)

While Microsoft itself will be an option for hosting, it will be just that - optional. Existing SMB managed-services providers (I mentioned Comcast and Verizon as just two) will also offer this as an upgrade/replacement for existing Office managed services; this is especially true for offerings built around Exchange. (While I'm using the Microsoft Online option during the beta, I actually expect that any SMBs that I wind up supporting will be using their existing MSP (none are using Microsoft as an MSP today). Therefore, the cost issue will largely be moot.

I had my invite last week - signed up and I'm mighty impressed. Hosted services like this are the future I'm sure but it'll all depend on pricing.

I registered way back in October 2010 when it was announced and got the invitation last week. Office 365 is excellent. Apart from Office and Exchange, it gives you a Sharepoint public web site and an internal site. That itself is worth using it.

Once registered, it says 2-4 weeks wait for the beta. I'm tempted to move my exchange email to this service as it appears to be cheaper. There's a few features e.g. sharepoint that I want to try out. I hope they dont have a minimum number of users that can use the service though.

Diagramatic said,
Once registered, it says 2-4 weeks wait for the beta. I'm tempted to move my exchange email to this service as it appears to be cheaper. There's a few features e.g. sharepoint that I want to try out. I hope they dont have a minimum number of users that can use the service though.

You have 25 accounts you can use/assign (this is primarily targeted at SMBs); I'm evaluating this as an option for SMBs that have neither the time or inclination to do a ton of IT themselves (such as doctors' offices). Being able to leverage Exchange is huge for SMBs; as much as IBM has tried to compete with Notes, Exchange is still the standard for SMB (and a lot of enterprise/corporate) e-mail servers that aren't tied to UNIX/Linux by their IT staffs.

getting this with @msn.com
account was registered in 2001 and i can enter my live mail.
forgot passwords to @live.ru and @live.com...
but can switch to them via live mail, as they are connected. yet office page still says sign in...

Access denied

The Microsoft Online Services ID that you entered is not recognized. If this is a new account, it may take a few hours before you have access to services.


coth said,
getting this with @msn.com
account was registered in 2001 and i can enter my live mail.
forgot passwords to @live.ru and @live.com...
but can switch to them via live mail, as they are connected. yet office page still says sign in...


Clear your Internet Cache and Delete your cookies in both IE and your other browsers even if you only use one of the browsers (yes sounds crazy), then sign in with the actual account, not 'through' the linked one.

Then you can try to sign in through the linked account if this is a success.

There is an old bug with ID cookie information that also caused this problem with some of the other Small Business online services, and even can cause problems with OneNote syncing. The original bug that causes this has been(or should be) fixed for quite a while; however if the cookie and cache information exists on your computer, it will still cause login problems, as Windows won't be able to hand the proper creditionals. (And weirdly this bug happens no matter what browser you are using.)

Also if this doesn't work, create a new account on your computer, and sign in via it, to see if you can then gain access by using the LiveID associated with the Office 365 beta.

Got my email from them this morning. Doesn't seem cheap enough yet, will be interested though to see the beta before I make my end conclusion. Was hoping to get away from Google Apps.

SK[ said,]Got my email from them this morning. Doesn't seem cheap enough yet, will be interested though to see the beta before I make my end conclusion. Was hoping to get away from Google Apps.
Always good to diversify and not be dependent on one company for everything.

SK[ said,]Got my email from them this morning. Doesn't seem cheap enough yet, will be interested though to see the beta before I make my end conclusion. Was hoping to get away from Google Apps.

If you can't already get away from Google Apps with Windows Live, SkyDrive, and Office Online it makes me wonder what features that are available from Microsoft for free that you have not noticed.