Office 365 launching in June with over 100,000 customers

It has been confirmed by multiple people within Microsoft that Office 365 will launch later this month - specifically on 28 June. This follows a beta testing cycle that was initially limited to a select audience from October 2010 - and then was expanded to general availability from April 2011.

The story was initially shared in a small post on Office 365 NZ yesterday. Details were confirmed later in a tweet from Microsoft Partner Director Jon Roskill. It was also noted that Microsoft has drawn some 100,000 customers to try the Office 365 beta.

As the beta has only been broadly available for a few weeks, it is anticipated that many more companies will jump onboard and try the beta before the launch on 28 June. One benefit for those who sign up for the beta is that in addition to free access to Office 365 during the remainder of the beta period, users will also have 1-month free usage, following release.

Office 365 is Microsoft's strongest launch into cloud services for it's broad global base of users. In 2010, Microsoft made it's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) available, however it was limited to using outdated versions of Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SharePoint from 2007. Office 365 fixes that by bringing Microsoft's latest offerings to the cloud - Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, Lync 2010 and Office Web Apps 2010. The highest end offering of Office 365 also includes a subscription license of Microsoft Office to install on user PCs and Laptops.

This release puts Microsoft in direct competition to Google's business offering of Google Apps. Microsoft Office has been the main office application used by both home users and businesses for a long time - and judging by this stronghold in the office productivity space, it's likely Microsoft will win the majority of the market that Office 365 is targeting.

What's unclear is specifically how Google will respond. Likely they will continue to make ongoing progress at improving Google Apps - however without the ease of use of the Office ribbon and only a web based offering it appears crippled compared Office 365 with an Office 2010 subscription. An option Google might take is to reduce the price of Google Apps - or to just make it free.

Interestingly, Google Apps has been free in the past for small businesses (and still is for the smallest firms), however most companies haven't seen it as a relevant option when compared to running in house Microsoft systems.

So what's missing?

  • Currently Office 365 works with Macs - except for Lync. The current Communications Server client shipping with Office 2011 for Mac does not work with the Office 365 beta. This is expected to be resolved at release time or within a few months following.
  • A subscription option that covers Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac. It's anticipated such an option will also be forthcoming, however Microsoft are yet to make any formal announcements.
  • A free option - well sort of. Actually Microsoft separate their business and consumer offerings. There are free options for consumers such as Hotmail, Docs.com and Windows Live Messenger. These offer many Office 365 style capabilities targeted squarely at consumers and at zero cost. 
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10 Comments

I'm genuinely amazed Google Apps has ever gained any ground unless people like being punched in the face while working. Honestly, the worst software I've ever used...and I used Vista (Vanilla).

Alansonit said,
I'm genuinely amazed Google Apps has ever gained any ground unless people like being punched in the face while working. Honestly, the worst software I've ever used...and I used Vista (Vanilla).

Sadly, this is going nowhere. I don't believe 100,000 users at start is much of anything. The problem for Microsoft on the corporate side will be trusting them with your data, and the trouble on the small business side will be $288 per seat, per year Vs $50 for Google... and others are likely going to come in at about the same price.

It all comes down to a cost vs benefit analysis, and for many Microsoft products will simply be way overpriced. For many, if it does the job... it's good enough. No one cares about the ribbon, very few want a legacy product on their desktop. What they want is a full office in the clouds (Word, Excel, Power Point, Acess and Outlook).

I believe a better price point for Microsoft would be between $5 and $10 per month, per user with maybe a minimum of three users. This would be only slightly more expensive then Google. Today, with some much competition... their per seat charge is insane.

Edited by azure.sapphire, Jun 4 2011, 3:45pm :

> An option Google might take is to reduce the price of Google Apps - or to just make it free.

So in other words, it'll either be ad-supported, or your info will be sold to third parties. Yeah, that's what I want from my office software...

I can't wait to switch all my domains to Office 365. Google apps is the biggest bag of cr*p, ever created and sold as a software for work. But hey, it's Google, so what can you expect?

i think Google Apps are great for the day to day use, obviously if you need to use all the extra features MS Office has then they do seem lacking, but for the most part i can do everything that i need for my business. I prefer Google Spreadsheets over MS Excel WebApp anyday.

I'm negotiating with the company that I'm currently working to advise them the benefits of Office 365 and what benefits Office 365 will be for our associates. I think this is a gient leap forward for Microsoft and one which will prove popular.

What's so bad about Google Apps - I use them all the time with several different businesses and they all love them. Office 365 is obviously a much more advanced and complete product but for many businesses Google Apps is more than enough. I have Office 2010 and am part of the 365 beta but I don't even remember the last time I've logged in or even used any of the desktop apps. All my documents are on Google Docs. Even my MS Office docs that I need access to are up there using Google Cloud Connect... And with the Google Docs app for Android I enjoy it even more.

Obry said,
What's so bad about Google Apps - I use them all the time with several different businesses and they all love them. Office 365 is obviously a much more advanced and complete product but for many businesses Google Apps is more than enough. I have Office 2010 and am part of the 365 beta but I don't even remember the last time I've logged in or even used any of the desktop apps. All my documents are on Google Docs. Even my MS Office docs that I need access to are up there using Google Cloud Connect... And with the Google Docs app for Android I enjoy it even more.

There are certainly an audience that have made Google Apps work for them - but there are many who are used to the ease of use of Microsoft's Office applications, or who need to have advanced formatting and layouts - or to work directly with Microsoft file formats without unexpected consequences. Opening and re-saving some files in Google Apps causes the formating and layouts to be lost. Not helpful.

And then there is question of support - something I've had major issues with in the past (with paid for Google products). When I needed help with a forgotten password with the Office 365 beta I was able to get excellent help via the phone.

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