After months of private beta, Microsoft has now unveiled Office 365 for open beta in 38 countries and 17 different languages. If you haven’t heard of Microsoft Office 365, it’s an online cloud variant of Office suite from Microsoft which goes head-to-head with Google Apps. Microsoft has also released an app-market sort of store called Office 365 Marketplace which at the moment features 100 applications and 400 different services from Microsoft’s channel partners and developers.
As a cloud-based Office productivity suite, Microsoft is pitching Office 365 towards small businesses who are aiming to develop their workforce with collaborative and easy anywhere anytime access web based tools which work from any modern web-browser to muscle their workflow.
Microsoft’s Office suite turns eleven this year, and it has delight in success all these years, but in 2006 Google tossed Google Apps, which enables enterprises and small business owners to use cloud based collaborative tools such as Google Docs, Google Talk and even Gmail within their business for cheap. Though Microsoft Office wasn’t cloud based service, it directly dug into Microsoft revenue stream. According to a study by Business Insider, Google Apps is rapidly growing in Enterprise and Education sectors. Microsoft saw this as a clear threat to the existence of Office and started working towards a cloud-based Office productivity suite.
Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Office Division says:
“We’ve been in the cloud for years supporting large enterprises such as Shell and DuPont, but Office 365 takes that same technology power and delivers it to small businesses. More than 70 percent of the people who signed up for the limited beta were small businesses, so it clearly strikes a chord.”
Given the fact that large enterprises usually have a lot of decision making to do, I feel Microsoft’s target for Office 365 is spot on. Sooner or later, large enterprises will find value in Office 365 and would invest their money in it. Small to Medium sized business stand to gain as Google Apps finally has a big rival and competition is always healthy for the end-users.
To give a bit of boost, Microsoft is promoting Office 365 with a contest for small businesses. Qualifying business can share their success stories on Office 365 Facebook page. Stories will be picked based on community voting and winners will get access to Office 365 for year, when it comes out of beta. Winners will also receive $50,000 in advertising and business services along with a Microsoft Executive for a day, who will work with you or the charity of your choice.
Microsoft Office 365 is offer in two variants for large enterprise and small to medium sized business. Subscription starts at a minimum of $6.