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11/29/2011
05:08 PM
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Office 365 Gets 30 New Features

Microsoft takes aim at Google Apps with Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) and Mac support, as well as easier-to-manage security tools.

Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns
Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns
(click image for larger view and forslideshow)
Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled a slew of upgrades for its Office 365 cloud productivity suite, including support for some new functions on Windows Phone and Mac clients.

The software maker also rolled out the service in 22 new countries and revealed that the vast majority of Office 365 customers to date are small businesses.

"We are seeing really positive momentum for Office 365," said Microsoft Office division president Kurt DelBene, in a statement. "We are also seeing great traction with small businesses, with more than 90 percent of our early Office 365 customers coming from small businesses."

DelBene said Office 365, which debuted in June, has been adopted "eight times faster" than its predecessor, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services, though he did not provide specific numbers.

[Need help choosing a cloud productivity suite? See Google Apps Vs Office 365? It All Depends.]

Office 365 features cloud-based versions of familiar Microsoft productivity and communications tools. It includes access to Office Professional Plus, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and Office Web Apps. Plans start at $6 per user, per month, making the offering competitive with Google's Google Apps service, which offers online e-mail, productivity apps, and calendaring starting at $5 per user, per month.

Though the service is mostly popular with small businesses, Microsoft said a number of large enterprises, including Campbell Soup Company and publisher Group Marie-Claire, have adopted it within their organizations. "We're betting on the cloud, and Office 365, as we prepare to build a highly collaborative workplace," said Campbell's CIO Joe Spagnoletti.

With the rollout of 30 new tools and services Tuesday, Microsoft is hoping to get a leg up on Google, which claims 4 million business customers for Google Apps.

Among other things, Microsoft introduced support for SharePoint Online for phones running the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system, which is also known as Mango. The update allows users to access and upload documents in SharePoint Online from any Mango-equipped phone.

Office for Mac 2011 users now will be able to download Lync for Mac directly from Office 365, which now features a unified downloads area for Mac users. Microsoft also has added support for Mac OS X Lion to Office 365.

There also are a number of new features for IT administrators. Admins now can reset their own passwords remotely by receiving a text message or an e-mail at an alternate address from their Office 365 account. Microsoft also has simplified the process of switching back and forth from managing users' data in the cloud or on-premises through the DirSync extension in Active Directory.

In a security update, Office 365 admins now can block access to the service based on client IP addresses. Microsoft also broadened Office 365's global market presence, rolling out the service for the first time in 22 countries, including Argentina, Croatia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, and Turkey.

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