Microsoft has released an update for its cloud-based Office 365 packages aimed at businesses.
The supplier’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, previewed the release last month, but only now have the various products been confirmed. Ballmer said at the time that he expects the majority of Office users to eventually move to Office 365.
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The product range represents Microsoft’s biggest push yet to move its software to a subscription model in the cloud, instead of the conventional PC licensing arrangements.
“With Office 365, everyone from large enterprises to small businesses to individual consumers can now benefit from the power of Office and the connectivity of the cloud,” said Microsoft Office division president Kurt DelBene.
“This release unlocks new scenarios and delivers capabilities that far surpass anything available in browser-only solutions.”
The new offerings for businesses are:
- Office 365 Enterprise – includes applications for messaging, document sharing, compliance and administration.
- Office 365 ProPlus – designed for employees who use multiple devices to access Office applications, this package allows up to five devices, such as Windows tablets, PCs and Macs, to be used per person. All settings will roam with the user between devices. ProPlus is available as a standalone offering for $144 per user for an annual subscription.
- Office 365 Midsize Business – for organisations with 10 to 250 employees. Includes the ProPlus option. Price is $180 per user for an annual subscription.
- Office 365 Small Business Premium – for companies with one to 10 employees. Price is $150 per user for an annual subscription.
UK pricing was not available at the time the announcement was made.
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Microsoft claimed that 18 months after the initial release of Office 365, one in five of its enterprise customers use the paid service, up from one in seven a year ago, and that the number of small and medium-sized business users has grown by 150% over 12 months.
"We projected freeing up two days of IT personnel time per month just from not having to manage email servers. I suspect we're going to find that we've saved much more than that,” said Julian Elve, head of information services at SSAT.
The release comes as Microsoft Office faces growing competition from Google. Organisations that have opted for Google Apps instead over the past 18 months include publisher Haymarket, Premier Foods, Hillingdon Council, Trinity Mirror and News International.