June 10, 2011, 1:58 PM — Microsoft's Office 365 cloud service is likely on the verge of exiting beta and entering general availability. CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that the service will launch this month and will be giving a speech about the service's future on June 28.
But is Office 365 really ready to ditch the "beta" tag? One analyst who has been testing Office 365 for a few months says no -- and a quick look at Microsoft help forums shows that numerous beta testers are experiencing problems.
MICROSOFT'S CLOUD: Office 365 beta now public
"I'm a big fan of Office 365. I think it's going to do well," says analyst Paul Burns of Neovise, who spent 20 years as a software engineer and senior product manager at HP, a strong Microsoft partner, before becoming an industry analyst. "But if they are moving out of beta at the end of June, then yes, I'm surprised."
Burns signed up for the Office 365 beta for himself and five part-time employees, and plans to continue using the service at the small-business rate of $6 per person per month once it becomes generally available. Burns is using Exchange for email as well as SharePoint, Lync, Office Web Apps and the regular version of Microsoft Office.
One missing capability, in Burns' opinion, is the ability to import contacts from, say, an Outlook client into a shared global address list that can be accessed by all employees through an Exchange server.
Currently, Microsoft requires Office 365 customers to either manually enter each email address one by one, or use Windows PowerShell.
Burns isn't the only one complaining about this, as a help forum thread shows.
A Microsoft support specialist told users on May 12, "If you'd like to import a list of contacts into your Global Address List, you'll need an Enterprise subscription. In Enterprise, you can use Remote PowerShell."
A week later, the Microsoft moderator followed up and said, "Small Business subscribers can now use Remote PowerShell."
But PowerShell requires users to work in a command-line interface, and "not everyone has the expertise to do that," Burns said. It's also time-consuming.