Microsoft Office 365 Released Globally

Available in 40 markets.

Microsoft's Office 365 was officially made available in 40 markets around the world today, the company announced at its launch event in New York today.  "We're here to introduce Microsoft Office 365, where Microsoft Office meets the cloud," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The product's launch has been anticipated for weeks; it is the successor to Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). With Office 365, Microsoft offers a variety of plans that allow customers to subscribe to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online.

Higher-end plans add Office 2010 as part of a monthly fee. The plans range from $2 per month, which gives kiosk workers access to Exchange Online, to $27 a month for the top plan that includes Microsoft Office Professional Plus and PC-to-PC calling with Lync Voice. More important is that the desktop Office suite integrates with the new service regardless of how it's licensed, although it must be Office 2007 SP2 or later. Ballmer emphasized the collaboration capabilities in Office 365, where users can simultaneously edit documents using the traditional Office suite or Office Web Apps.

Ballmer also highlighted the fact that while Microsoft has its sights on large enterprises, small and midsize businesses are a prime target of Office 365. He explained that 70 percent of the beta testers were SMBs and that two-thirds of global job growth comes from such businesses. "To compete, small and medium-sized businesses do need an edge, an edge that doesn't require huge upfront capital investment or complex IT systems to manage and maintain," Ballmer said.

Microsoft said it has signed on 20 global service providers to offer Office 365. Among them are Bell Canada, Intuit Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Telefonica S.A., Telstra Corp., and Vodafone Group Plc.

Paul Rowe, vice president of marketing and business development at Bell Canada, said in an interview that he is bullish that there will be an immediate spike in demand for Office 365. "We are expecting a fast adoption rate of Office 365," Rowe said. "We have over 400,000 small and midsized customers and we are launching Office 365 in August to those customers. We will bundle it with our voice, Internet, and value-added services."

Rowe emphasized that SMBs are the primary target for Office 365. "SMBs will see the fastest uptake, absolutely," he said. "Some large customers will use this product but it will be a hybrid model where they integrate with some of their own IT messaging and collaboration systems."

Others said there's plenty of interest from larger enterprises. Dave Cutler, general manager of Chicago-based Slalom Consulting, says his company is among them. "We are kind of seeing interest across the board," Cutler said in an interview. "We've seen sales all the way up from the largest customers. We don't see it as a phenomenon on one specific market."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.