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Microsoft moves to Office 365 in the cloud

Microsoft has announced the worldwide availability of Microsoft Office 365, its cloud service that offers Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online as an always-up-to-date cloud service available for a monthly subscription.

Microsoft_Office365_BallmerThe beta was introduced last year, with over 200,000 organizations testing it. Microsoft said businesses using Office 365 have reported reduced IT costs by up to an estimated 50 percent, besides a boost in productivity. With the arrival of the production version, over 20 providers globally have shared plans to offer Office 365 to customers this year, including Bell Canada, Intuit Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Telefonica S.A., Telstra Corp. and Vodafone Group Plc agreeing to package and sell Office 365 with their own services for small and midsize businesses.

Office 365 has collaborative features already found on competing cloud based productivity suites such as Google Apps and Zoho. Service plans have a price ranging from $2 to $27 per user per month, with the $6 per user, per month plan allowing small businesses to get up and running with Office Web Apps, Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Lync Online and an external website quickly.

“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.”

Reports in the media, however, were skeptical about the success of Office 365, with some saying that it could cannibalize the office productivity market for Microsoft Office, Microsoft's biggest contributer of revenues, even as an article on CNET quoted Kurt DelBene, President of Microsoft's Office division dispelling that notion by saying that Office 365 was created as a focused offering for specific business segments. Other reports said the offering was essentially viable only on a Windows desktop environment as it had functional and compatibility issues when used on other platforms such as Linux, iOS or mobile operating systems such as Android or BlackBerry.


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