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Microsoft Releases SharePoint, Exchange As A Service

More than 7,000 companies and organizations signed up to participate in the multitenant beta for Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.
Within the next year, Microsoft will announce and offer a slate of new online services, including the release of a multitenant version of Office Communications Online, which will first be available as a beta next year and will provide instant messaging and presence as a service. The company also is planning to release a desktop infrastructure and security management service based partially on System Center asset management and some capabilities Microsoft has been testing with battery company Energizer.

Last month, the company announced that the next version of Office would include Office Web Apps, which would allow customers to access a light version of Office client applications like Word and Excel in a Web browser. Capossela said that some of the most interested companies in Office Web Apps are like those in the manufacturing business that may have lots of workers who wouldn't otherwise have access to Office -- so-called deskless workers.

Microsoft also has plans to expand its partnership program for Microsoft Online Services. More than 1,500 companies have signed up since Microsoft announced the partner program in July, and more than 100 are being added to the rolls weekly to do everything from reselling and migration support to training and application development. "Unlike some of our competitors, we're very focused on how we can help our partners grow their business," Capossela said, giving a slight dig at companies like Google.

On Monday, Microsoft announced the Partner Solutions Showcase Program and an award to recognize top partners, the first of which went to ThoughtBridge for building a job-posting and application-processing app for SharePoint Online. Still, there's a limited amount of work partners can do with SharePoint Online today. ThoughtBridge's application uses SharePoint Online to call Web services, rather than having the code directly integrated with SharePoint. That may change.

"We don't yet let you run custom code," Capossela said. "There are limitations today for the online infrastructure, but we'll be doing far more work on that in the next version."

Adopting SaaS applications is easy with some companies like Microsoft. Integrating them can drive up the cost and complexity SaaS is supposed to avoid. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of the topic. Download the report here (registration required).