Home Microsoft’s Office 365 Hits Public Beta

Microsoft’s Office 365 Hits Public Beta

Microsoft has announced this morning that it’s opening Office 365 to public beta. Office 365 includes updated versions of SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Lync Online, and Office Web Apps, all available as a subscription.

Microsoft has also launched the Office 365 Marketplace today, giving customers a way to find third-party apps and services that can be integrated with Office 365. The marketplace opens its doors with 100 apps and 400 services available, and Microsoft says that number will increase over time.

If this offering sounds a lot like Google Apps and Google Apps Marketplace, that’s no surprise, as Google has encroached on Microsoft’s Office suite of tools with its cloud-based offerings. Office 365 is Microsoft’s response – an alternative to desktop software that doesn’t necessitate businesses leaving the Microsoft brand and licensing behind.

Microsoft is targeting the small business world, as well as the educational market with Office 365 – two sectors in which Google Apps has found great success. But unlike Google’s tools, Microsoft’s are not free. Once the service officially launches, pricing will be tiered, depending on company size: businesses with fewer than 25 employees will pay $6 per month. Larger companies will have four enterprise pricing options to choose from.

CRN’s Edward Moltzen has strong words for Office 365 this morning: “Office 365, frankly, is to Google Apps as XBOX 360 Live is to Pong. It’s in a different league entirely and represents a leap into the next generation of computing.” That’s a big claim for an office productivity suite.

Want to take it for a test-drive? While Office 365 will have its official worldwide launch later this year, you can sign up now for an early look at the beta.

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