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Microsoft takes on Google Apps with Office 365 Cloud Service

Microsoft has announced a new cloud service, called Office 365, which will include various Office desktop software as well Office Web Apps, online at www.office365.com. The service will also include Share-Point, Exchange and Lync. It will officially go online next year, though beta testing opens now.

The hosted software for business is not free, and is available for small businesses, professionals and small companies with fewer than 25 employees, starting from $6 per user per month. This will include only web-based Office software.

Office 365 for enterprises for midsize and large businesses, will start at $2 per user per month for basic e-mail ranging up to $24 per user per month for the complete deal including the full Office Professional Plus desktop suite, communications server tools, online versions of the desktop software, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, SharePoint, Exchange, Web portals, extranets, voice conferencing, Web conferencing, 24x7 phone support, and on-premises licenses.

The platform will apparently work across multiple devices, and will introduce great new collaborative as well as security features. It is expected to include Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online soon. Microsoft is obviously taking on Google Apps, and to be fair, Google offers a free service for consumers and small businesses with Google Docs and Gmail. Google Apps also has a paid business version, for $50 per user per year. Microsoft previously retailed its Business Productivity Online Suite for $120 per user per year, so the varying price points for different sizes of businesses.

According to Microsoft Office president Kurt DelBene:

"Moving to the cloud with Office 365 means people don't have to change the way they work, because [the suite] works with the most popular browsers, smartphones and desktop applications people use today."

"With Office 365, your local bakery can get enterprise-caliber software and services for the first time, while a multinational pharmaceutical company can reduce costs and more easily stay current with the latest innovations. People can focus on their business, while we and our partners take care of the technology."