Today Microsoft launched their new online productivity suite, Office 365, that runs entirely in the cloud. Formerly a similar service known as Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) was Microsoft’s primary online offering, but 365 is here as the new replacement. Office 365 simplifies the offering by adding features a few new features and retiring a few others.
The announcement came from the launch event in New York earlier this morning. Ballmer and a few other exec’s reviewed the new offering however the majority of the presentations I found were focused on collaboration. Office 365 is an online version of Microsoft Office, but it is also an Exchange and Sharepoint capable service that will work with desktop apps and mobile devices. Secondly, Ballmer honed in on the benefits for the small and medium-sized businesses drawing attention to the ease of getting the service up and running with little IT support. A huge win for the small business with little to no IT staff.
Before 365, Microsoft didn’t have much to offer a business of 50 employees or less. Exchange servers were too expensive and required too much maintenance, and the same could be said about Sharepoint. Live Meeting is also being replaced by Lync, which simplifies meetings and brings participant size from 2500 down to the more feasible 250.
Prices will vary, starting with the smallest plan for Kiosk (think mall or store sales) employee at $2 per user per month; which is basically just a 500mb email account. The upper end of the service will be priced at $27 per user per month for the fully loaded enterprise package that includes the entire office suite online. The average however will probably sit around the $6 per month per user range for small businesses and professionals, which makes the total cost $62 per year, per user, compared to Google App’s $50 offering.
Microsoft’s Office 365 brings familiar desktop products from the Office 2007 and 2010 (and 2011 for Mac) suite to the web. Some of the best features are only available in the highly expensive enterprise package, such as the Google Apps’esq real-time coauthoring. Additionally the online apps are designed to work directly with the desktop suite for users that already own it, but the older Office 2003 and thankfully IE6, are not supported whatsoever.
Needless to say, the launch has made Google nervous and the Google apps enterprise team is viciously striking back against the launch of Office 365. Yesterday in a blog post titled “365 reasons to consider Google Apps” Google Product manager, Shan Sinha, stated “Office 365 is about the desktop. Apps is about the web.”. That being said, there wasn’t actually a list but rather a request from Google Apps users to rally and worth together to come up with the list.
For consumers and businesses this is a win-win scenario. Not only does Google now have some real competition and incentive to improve their service, but users now have more choices in which cloud suite to conduct business with. Stay tuned for our comprehensive look and review of setting up Office 365 and comparing it to Google Apps.