Office 365 gives Microsoft a chance to leapfrog Google by making cloud apps easy

Familiar interface, low cost, powerful feature list puts Office 365 ahead of Google Apps, on paper

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The revamped version of the cloud-based office suite Microsoft will introduce tomorrow is getting good reviews – despite warnings earlier this month from analysts who said Office 365 isn't ready to leave beta testing -- especially compared to Google's web-based productivity apps.

[Also see: 13 cool features of Office 365]

Microsoft scheduled a press conference in New York tomorrow in which CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to announce general availability for Office 365, the replacement for Microsoft's moribund (sometimes unreliable) Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which has been in beta since October.

Switching to online versions of the apps employees use pretty much full time is usually considered it's most appropriate for branch offices or small companies without their own IT staffs – or who prefer to pay for productivity and communication apps by subscription rather than the high per-seat Office license costs.

" The per-seat pricing for Office 365 may tempt a few chief financial officers to call Microsoft in for a pitch," according to a review from Ghacks.net.

Larger companies that have the IT budgets and staff to support desktop Office installations would be losing a lot of investment and customization work if they decide to dump the desktop version and adopt the cloud versions.

Most would mix the two, anyway, either using Office 365 to supplement the desktop version or to provide a shared workspace between business partners, or common workspace for team members

who spend a lot of time separated or travelling.

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