Exchange, SharePoint hosted services go live

Microsoft sees 50% of customers eventually online

Microsoft on Monday will release the first of several of its hosted business-productivity services.

Microsoft Monday officially rolled out two of its enterprise online subscription services that are focused around Exchange and SharePoint and said that it expects an explosion of users in the next five years.

Exchange Online and SharePoint Online give users a Microsoft hosted platform in the "cloud" as an alternative to deploying infrastructure locally. The Microsoft Online Services suite, available to companies of any size, is designed to give Microsoft a chance to beat back rivals muscling in on their enterprise software.

"In five years, we expect that 50% of Exchange and/or SharePoint seats will be services from Microsoft online," says John Betz, director of product management for online services.

The two services have been in beta since March and are the cornerstones of Online Services, a model that Microsoft had been incubating for more than three years.

The other services now include Office Live Meeting for conferencing and Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services for security, and will eventually include Microsoft Office Communications Online, a hosted version of Office Communications Server.

Microsoft also says it is developing a service that will enable IT to secure and manage desktops using a Web-based subscription. The company says the service would be based on existing systems management, identity and security offerings.

Those tools likely would include Systems Center Operations Manager and Configuration Manager, and the popular Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which gives users a number of inventory, deployment and management tools for desktops.

The service will be available early next year and will give "an IT person choices in how they consume our technology," said Betz. He would not provide details but he said Microsoft would eventually offer a number of infrastructure and desktop management services in "logical bundles" around the tools familiar to IT administrators today.

Microsoft officials said they would offer Exchange Online and SharePoint Online separately and in a bundle with the other services.

In July, the company said an information worker bundle will be priced at $15 per user per month and includes hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Server and Live Meeting.

Individually, Microsoft will be selling hosted Exchange Online for $10 per user, per month; SharePoint Online for $7.25 per user, per month; Office Communications Online for $2.50 per user, per month; and Office Live Meeting Online for $4.50 per user, per month, the company said.

Microsoft has been fighting against hosting providers most notably Google, which has been offering email and other services such as Google Docs.

Microsoft Online is a big part of Microsoft's effort to offer services elements to its most popular software, an edict that CEO Steve Ballmer handed down several years ago.

Last month, Microsoft said it would finally offer Web-based versions of its Office applications. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will be delivered with Office 14 and Office Live, a consumer service, in the same way the company's popular Outlook Web Access makes e-mail available via a browser.

For business users, Microsoft will offer a subscription service and volume-licensing options for those that want to host the Office Web applications on their own networks.

Also Monday, Microsoft said it would release Microsoft Solution Accelerators for Microsoft Online Services to help users plan for and deploy the services.

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