was busy introducing their Google+ Project for social
networking mavens, Microsoft
has been busy putting the final touches on a
cloud-based software suite that has been in the works for what feels
like an eternity. Office 365 was formally unveiled by Steve Ballmer this
week, with a global launch bringing collaboration tools and other
productivity programs to a wide array of businesses. Microsoft's not
beating around the bush: this is a cloud service, and it's being made
available in 40 markets.
The service brings together Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint
Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online in an always-up-to-date cloud
service, at a predictable monthly subscription. You may recall the beta
opening up last year, with over 200,000 companies signing up to test
drive things. Today, more than 20 service providers around the globe
also shared plans
to bring Office 365 to their customers this year. Bell Canada, Intuit
Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Telefonica S.A., Telstra Corp. and
Vodafone Group Plc, among others, will package and sell Office 365 with
their own services for small and midsize businesses. With Office 365,
people can stay on the "same page" using instant
messaging and virtual meetings with people who are just down the hall or
across the world. They can work on files and documents at the same time
and share ideas as easily as they can share calendars. Office 365 gives
people new ways to work together with ease, on virtually any device.
Of course, Microsoft Office applications are at the heart of Office 365.
Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook and other Office applications
connect to Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Lync to deliver a
world-class solution for communication and collaboration. It's hard to
say if Microsoft has a hit here; Google Docs have been online for a long
time now, and their Wave collaboration tool never did gain much
traction. Still, those interested in giving it a whirl can do so today,
and judging by the way companies are latching onto the Internet, we'd say 'cloud' is definitely in your future -- like it or not.