Microsoft opens Office 365 for business

Microsoft formally launched its Office 365 edition, which puts the familiar Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications into the Cloud. BusinessCloud9.com’s Stuart Lauchlan reports on the launch events in New York and London. AccountingWEB members also had a few things to say.

So far, Microsoft reports that some 200,000 people have taken part in the Office 365 beta test, and many of them reported reductions of up to 50% in their IT costs as a result.

Those who took part in the beta test have now got 30 days to decide if they want to buy into the new online edition for good. The UK price plans for Office 365 start from £4 per user per month for small businesses wanting basic functionality, rising up to £17.50 per person/month for enterprise customers that want fully functioning versions of Office desktop tools, Visio, Exchange and unified voice communications too.

At the launch event in New York, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: “We believe that effective collaboration is a lot more than good group dynamics; it's a matter of instant access to relevant information, of ideas flowing freely and of the right people taking the right action at the right time.

“And it's absolutely critical — collaboration is — to business growth. That's why we believe that the best collaboration technology has to be available to all businesses, from massive global enterprises with thousands of workers to feisty start-ups with just a couple of employees. ”

The launch of Office 365 heightens the competition with arch-rival Google. In May, AccountingWEB member FirstTab sought members’ views about the relative merits of the two online environments and the theme was picked up in the AccountingWEB Cloud computing discussion group.

Adrian Pearson thought that Google Apps offered more in terms of genuine collaboration, but was less impressed with Google Docs, terming them a “poor man’s Microsoft Office”. He advised adopting a best of breed and common-sense strategy: “Google Apps for stuff that really benefits from group access/collaboration and third party integrations; Microsoft Office for documents.”

Google Apps product manager Shan Sinha was busy ahead of the Office 365 launch undermining the philosophy and direction of Microsoft’s new Cloud venture.

 “Technology inevitably gets more complicated as it gets older. Upgrading platforms and adding features results in systems that are increasingly difficult to manage and complex to use. At times like these, it's worth considering a clean-slate: an approach based on entirely modern technologies, designed for today’s world.” Sinha said.

A longer report on the Office 365 launch event is available on our sister site, BusinessCloud9.com.

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