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Microsoft Takes Online Business Services Global

Customers already can start signing up for trials of SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Office Communications.

Microsoft is pushing its business online services into new markets, announcing that as of April it will extend collaboration services to 19 countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region in an effort to win new global customers.

Customers already can start signing up for trials of SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Office Communications Online in those countries, and also will be able to sign up for Microsoft's lower Deskless Worker tier of services, aimed mostly at employees who don't have access to SharePoint, Exchange, or in many cases even a computer.

Specifically, Microsoft on Monday said it will make the software as a service available in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

As part of this announcement, Microsoft also announced a major customer win. Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline plans to deploy 100,000 seats of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, a discounted bundle that includes SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Office Communications Online, and Live Meeting.

John Betz, a Microsoft director of business online services, said Microsoft had been getting an increasing number of requests for multilanguage support and international availability. The company will serve the international services from data centers in Europe and Asia-Pacific in order to reduce latency and improve performance.

GlaxoSmithKline, like two-thirds of Microsoft's online services customers, is switching from competitive collaboration software and services to Microsoft. It's doing away with IBM Lotus Notes and Google Postini. Microsoft estimates it has won about 500,000 seats of its online collaboration services from customers who had previously used competitive software and services. That means Microsoft has an estimated 750,000 total paying users of its collaboration services.

Microsoft has had dedicated tenant versions of its collaboration services available broadly for less than 18 months and multitenant versions available only since November. Other major customers include Coca-Cola Enterprises, retailer Eddie Bauer, and consumer electronics company Philips.

Betz said that the recession may actually be contributing to the success of Microsoft's collaboration services. "I think it's actually adding momentum," he said, pointing to the savings of 30% GlaxoSmithKline expects to get by using Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite.

In what other ways is Microsoft changing its business model? InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on overhauling Microsoft. Download the report here (registration required).

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