April 18, 2011, 9:39 AM — Now anyone can try Office 365, Microsoft's cloud productivity package for businesses. The service opened Sunday night for beta testing, coming a step closer to its final launch, which will occur sometime later this year.
Office 365 is built to entice small and large companies that want to stop handling many IT chores in-house and instead entrust the heavy lifting to Microsoft's servers. This bundle of always-on online services ties in to Office software and is meant to enable access to work, contacts, and calendars from your desktop and mobile devices, including Windows Phone 7, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones.
In addition to letting you collaborate live on documents simultaneously with other users, Office 365 offers shared storage space online, and tools for managing sites and intranet pages.
Much of Office 365 will embrace components of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS), which includes Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications Online, and Office Live Meeting.
In case you're confused, Office 365 is not a collection of online counterparts to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft released just such a collection last June as Office Web Apps, to accompany the new desktop Office 2010. Office Web Apps are a part of Office 365, however, and both integrate with Office software on your PC. Microsoft says that its cloud tools will work with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on the Mac.
For companies that want to reduce the time and money they spend on in-house IT, Office 365 looks like a good deal.
What's in Microsoft Office 365
Office Professional Plus
This $499 software package is available instead for additional monthly fees with Office 365. It includes the desktop Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, OneNote, Publisher, Access, InfoPath, SharePoint Workspace, and Lync.
Office Web Apps
These online editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote are designed to work seamlessly with the desktop Office.
Microsoft Exchange Online