Microsoft is finally coming through on its promise from Sept. 2007 to create an online, SAAS version of Office and the other apps that make up the core of its revenue stream.
Office 365, which combines Office, SharePoint, Exchange and the Lync Online unified VoIP/email communication service is available as a beta service now to a limited audience of those who have not drowned under the flood or marketing come-ons and special offers to buy the bloated, slow and buggy Office 2010.
A small business version will cost around $6 per user per month; enterprise versions will range between $2 and $27 depending on options and discounts.
Google offers its suite for $50 per year, similar packages are available on Android, and versions of the open-source OpenOffice have been available online since 2007.
The real version will launch next year, and Microsoft plans to expand it in 2010 to include CRM, IM, social networking , portals, web and voice conferencing and 24x7 support.
No word on the reaction from the reseller channel, who reacted with deep suspicion of Microsoft when the company first started talking about a SAAS version of its products.
Microsoft's Office is among the highest-selling and most profitable products tols by most integrators and value-added resellers, if only because it addresses so many people in an organization, rather than just the specialists who would be interested in a more expensive product for network analysis, for example.