Microsoft is launching Office 365 around the world today, their first real attempt at tackling Google's online Apps. Office365 is a product that collides Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync online into one "always-up-to-date" cloud service, available as a monthly subscription.
In a press release from Microsoft New Zealand, the company said that since the beta launched, 200,000 organizations around the world joined the program. 70% of these were small or medium business' and the beta was one of Microsoft's largest beta programs to date. According to Microsoft, businesses are reporting that they have been able to reduce IT costs by up to 50 percent, as well as boosting productivity.
Web version of Microsoft Excel
Office365 allows businesses to access reliable email services that boast a 99.99% uptime, something that small businesses would find hard to match using in-house Exchange based systems. It also boasts full Lync integration, Microsoft's new messaging client that offers not only instant messaging, but voice or video calls, the ability to share screens and is able to communicate with conventional Windows Live Messenger users, all in one place. On top of this, web versions of Office are built into Office365, allowing rich document editing on almost any device.
The Lync desktop client
From today, Office 365 is officially out of beta and will be on sale to businesses. Plans start at as little as $6 per user a month. The high end plans (branded as "E" plans) include a subscription to the desktop version of office -- Professional Plus -- so that businesses don't need to buy licenses up front. The cheaper plans (branded as "P" plans) are basic, and include email services at the very least, with the options of adding Lync and SharePoint for users.
The below graphic details more on the enterprise plans, however was leaked before they were finalized, so prices may be different than shown. Microsoft also notes that each enterprise plan includes "advanced IT controls [such as active directory integration], security, 24x7 IT support and reliability you expect from Microsoft."
A trial is available for 30 days, free of charge at http://www.office365.com.
This is a developing story, expect more as launch events take place worldwide...