Microsoft announces new cloud version of MS Office 2010

Office 365 is a subscription service that features all of Microsoft's latest Office versions.

Microsoft is announcing today yet another cloud offering for office apps, Office 365. The news announcement is going on now -- and Microsoft Subnet blogger Robert Mullins will offer details later today.  Essentially, it sounds as if Office 365 is the next-generation of Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS), using Microsoft's latest versions of Office. Office 2010 including Lync offered as a subscription. (BPOS doesn't use Exchange 2010, for instance, despite the fact that Exchange 2010 was billed as being designed from the ground up for the cloud).

At a cost of $6/user per month, the offering is another attempt to take aim at Google Apps. If it won't require businesses to revamp any custom code written on top of on-premises Microsoft Office apps, businesses could bite.

On the other hand, Microsoft has been rather wishy-washy over its online privacy policies. It hasn't been encrypting e-mail stored on servers for its Live@edu customers, for instance.  The company is aware that cloud data can be an identity thief's dream, too.

When we get more details on this new cloud service, and how it differs from BPOS and the free version Office Web Apps, I'll update this post with links. In the meantime, here's what Microsoft is saying about the new service.

Microsoft Announces Office 365REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 19, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. today announced Microsoft Office 365, the company’s next generation in cloud productivity that brings together Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online in an always-up-to-date cloud service. Office 365 makes it easier for millions more organizations to get and use Microsoft’s award-winning business productivity solutions via the cloud. With Office 365, people can work together more easily from anywhere on virtually any device, while collaborating with others inside and outside their organization in a simple and highly secure way. As part of today’s news, Microsoft is also opening a limited beta program for Office 365 in 13 countries and regions.Office 365 is built on years of experience delivering industry-leading business cloud services ranging from the first browser-based e-mail to today’s Business Productivity Online Suite, Microsoft Office Live Small Business and Live@edu. Moving to the cloud with Office 365 means people don’t have to change the way they work, because Office 365 works with the most popular browsers, smartphones and desktop applications people use today.“Office 365 is the best of everything we know about productivity, all in a single cloud service,” said Kurt DelBene, president of the Office Division at Microsoft. “With Office 365, your local bakery can get enterprise-caliber software and services for the first time, while a multinational pharmaceutical company can reduce costs and more easily stay current with the latest innovations. People can focus on their business, while we and our partners take care of the technology.”Microsoft worked closely with existing customers to develop Office 365, resulting in a cloud service that is designed to meet a wide range of customer needs.With Office 365 for small businesses, professionals and small companies with fewer than 25 employees can be up and running with Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and an external website in just 15 minutes, for $6 or 5.25 euros per user, per month1.

New cloud service brings together Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync for organizations of all sizes.

“For a small business, Office 365 is a perfect way to start,” said Rob Nichols, chief technology officer of Allovus Design, a graphic design firm and member of Microsoft’s Customer Advisory Board for Office 365. “It has all the features we need, and we can come out of the gate with the same tools the big guys have — on day one.” Office 365 creates new growth opportunities for Microsoft and its partners by reaching more customers and types of workers and meeting more business IT needs — all while cutting costs for customers.Product AvailabilityLater next year, Office 365 will expand to include Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to provide Microsoft’s complete business productivity experience to organizations of all types and sizes. In addition, Office 365 for education will debut later next year, giving students, faculty and school employees powerful technology tailored specifically to their needs. Minimum seat is one.Today at 12 p.m. PDT, Microsoft will launch http://www.Office365.com. Customers and partners can sign up for the Office 365 beta and learn more at that site.

Office 365 for enterprises introduces an array of choices for midsize and large businesses as well as government organizations, starting for as little as $2 or 1.75 euros per user, per month1 for basic e-mail. Office 365 for enterprises also includes the option to get Microsoft Office Professional Plus desktop software on a pay-as-you-go basis, for the first time ever. For $24 or 22.75 euros per user, per month1, organizations can get Office Professional Plus along with e-mail, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, Web portals, extranets, voiceconferencing and videoconferencing, webconferencing, 24x7 phone support, on-premises licenses, and more.

Office 365 will be available worldwide next year. Starting today, Microsoft will begin testing Office 365 with a few thousand organizations in 13 countries and regions around the world, and the beta will be expanded to include more organizations over time. Office 365 will be generally available in 40 countries and regions next year.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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