Office 365 provides Microsoft Office 2010 Online, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online,and Lync Online in a single cloud-based service. This marks the first time all these applications are being made available as a single offering, according to the company.
According to Kurt Del Bene, president, Microsoft Office Division in the webcast announcement, the small-business offering includes mobile email and calendar; a public-facing website, plus team intranet and extranet sites, based on Microsoft SharePoint. It also includes video conferencing and Microsoft Office Web Apps, which are, according to Microsoft, "online companions to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote" that let users access, view, and edit documents directly from a web browser. The enterprise version includes additional features.
Tim Harmon, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, commented, "This is late to the game, but not too late, given that this leapfrogs beyond current offerings like GoogleApps and IBM's LotusLive. A combination of GoogleApps plus Box.net could offer somewhat comparable functions... this announcement may prompt Google to respond, possibly via an acquisition."
Users will access Office 365 via a web browser, on a subscription basis. Microsoft will be providing its cloud services through data centers, with a 99.99 SLA.
"I think that Office 365 will be more successful than Microsoft's BPOS by an order of magnitude," said Forrester's Harmon. "All our research shows that SMBs are becoming more mobile and more distributed, often with multiple, even virtual offices, and with more of their people on the road. For SMBs with these attributes, this is an important direction to consider."
Mobile workers and others may still want dual-deployment that includes local provisioning, for when there is no connectivity available, Harmon suggested.
Microsoft claims that Office 365 "works with the most popular browsers, smartphones and desktop applications people use today." According to Harmon, Microsoft said that Office 365 will work with the Internet Explorer, FireFox and Safari browsers, and will be supported on smartphones including BlackBerry, Android and iPhone. The subscription cost does not include BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
Microsoft plans to add Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to Office 365 sometime later next year. According to the company, Office 365 will replace the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Office Live Small Business and Live@edu.
The small-business version of Office 365 will be available for $6/user/month. Office 365 will be available next year, according to the company. A limited beta is available now, free, from www.office365.com.