Microsoft, yesterday announced an upgrade and rebranding of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) of cloud services, bringing its hosted Exchange Online and SharePoint Online offerings together with the cloud version of the recently renamed Lync communications platform (previously known as Office Communications Server).
The package also includes support for Office Web Apps and licensing for the Office desktop suite. The beta programme includes small business and enterprise editions. Office 365 replaces the existing BPOS tools, Office Live Small Business and Live Education platforms.
The new Exchange Online is based on Exchange 2010, and like its on-premises sibling gives you access to new scheduling features, along with MailTips for handling out-of-office messages and other common tasks.
Users will get 25GB of storage with each Exchange Online account, and the service will also allow sending attachments as large as 25MB. It’s also set up with antispam and antivirus tools, helping protect your network.
Like SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Online supports social features, and can also be used to manage a secure extranet for working with partners. As it’s the latest version of SharePoint, it’s also a host for Office Web Apps, giving Office 365 both an online editor for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and support for collaboration using the desktop versions of the tools.
Microsoft Office 365 is going to be provided on a per-user license – it will also enable businesses to host websites on the SharePoint online services. You’ll be able to sign up directly on the site, or you’ll be able to purchase a subscription (along with support services) from a Microsoft partner.
Pricing for the UK has yet to be announced, but the US service will have plans ranging from $2 to $27 per user per month, with the more expensive plans including access to the desktop Office suite, and the basic plans just offering web access to email.
Microsoft is also offering a range of plans for what it’s calling ‘kiosk’ workers — that is, workers without a dedicated computer. Kiosk workers will work with Office 365 using their browser, with Outlook Web Apps for email and the Office Web Apps for working with documents.
Small businesses get free access to the cloud service for 30 days, with a $6 per user per month charge after that.
So overall it seems a step in the right direction for Microsoft being able to leasea functional cloud based system to commercial and public sector. Microsoft are only currently offering Windows Live which is limited in ways – but I must say I really do like 365 and looking forward to its introduction. What I would love to know is will 365 intergrate with Windows Mobile 7? Stay tuned for an update on prices and a release date for the UK.
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