Office 365 SMB editions to get a makeover

They'll have new features at lower prices

By , IDG News Service |  Unified Communications

Microsoft will revamp its Office 365 lineup for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), adding features, dropping prices and increasing the flexibility to mix and match them with Office 365 plans for enterprises and with stand-alone applications.

The changes are the result of feedback from partners and existing Office 365 customers, and are intended to make the Office 365 application suite more attractive to SMBs and easier to market for channel resellers, Microsoft said on Wednesday.

The new Office 365 plans, which Microsoft will discuss in more detail at next week's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington, D.C., will launch in October and over time replace the current Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business editions.

The new Office 365 Business Premium is equivalent to the existing Midsize Business, but it costs less: US$12.50 per user/month compared to $15 per user/month. It includes the full suite of Office productivity applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint one OneNote, as well as the cloud versions of the Office servers, including Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online.

Office 365 Business Premium also comes with 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage per user, Active Directory integration and Yammer Enterprise. It can be deployed to up to 300 users within a company.

At $12.50 per user/month, Office 365 Business Premium will not only be cheaper than Office 365 Midsize Business, but it will also cost the same as Office 365 Small Business Premium, while offering more features like Active Directory integration and a higher user cap -- 300 versus 25. Thus, Office 365 Business Premium will become a replacement for both Midsize Business and Small Business Premium.

Meanwhile, the new Office 365 Business Essentials will replace Office 365 Small Business. The new plan will cost the same -- $5 per user/month -- but it again lifts the maximum user ceiling from 25 to 300, and comes with additional features like the Active Directory integration. Like the plan it's replacing, Office 365 Business Essentials comes with the server products -- Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online -- but not with the full-featured Office productivity applications, like Word and Excel.

For customers who want only the suite of Office productivity applications and not the cloud servers, Microsoft is introducing a new plan called Office 365 Business that will offer a less expensive option to the existing Office 365 ProPlus.

Office 365 Business will cost $8.25 per user/month and will come with Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher, but not with Access and Lync, which are included with Office 365 ProPlus, which costs $12 per user/month.

Another difference is that Office 365 Business is capped at 300 users, while Office 365 ProPlus can be rolled out to an unlimited number of users.

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