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Microsoft Office 365 SaaS (now in limited Beta)

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Core information:


Really big thing, an industry milestone similar to SAP’s (see: SAP’s Business ByDesign SaaS to be relaunched on July 31 with mobility as one of key attractions [July 28]).

Now Microsoft Announces Office 365 [Oct 19]. The number after its familiar brand name is reflecting the idea of “always on”, i.e. the cloud services to be provided by this new product are meant to be available throughout the 365 days of a year. Being curious I have signed up immediately to experience this new kind of cloud service. In return, however, I got an e-mail saying (emphasis is mine here and elsewhere):

We appreciate your interest in our recently announced limited beta for Microsoft Office 365. Due to the high level of interest, we will let you know if space becomes available. In the meantime, we hope you take the opportunity to learn more about Office 365 and keep up with the buzz.

Update: Mary-Jo Foley of ZDNet’s All About Microsoft has three excellent posts about Office 365:
The road to Microsoft Office 365: The past [Nov 30]
The road to Office 365: The present [Dec 1]
The road to Office 365: The future [Dec 2]

Update: General Manager of the SharePoint Product Management Group Eric Swift on Office 365 [Oct 26]:

SharePoint Online helps organizations and professionals create sites to securely share information, insights, and important documents with colleagues, customers, and partners.

It’s simple to create Office documents and save them directly to SharePoint Online, easy to access your content off-line or on your phone, and quickly share information and insights using familiar tools.

And, with Office 365, organizations get the full benefit of Office, Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint because it is designed to work together.

For SharePoint developers and independent software vendors (ISV’s), the opportunities to configure and extend SharePoint Online today include the ability to:
– configure master pages, templates, page layouts, and site columns
– customize the site UI with custom Silverlight controls, navigation or functional controls
– build customized document workflows, using data and documents contained within SharePoint Online
– customize lists and content types
– use Sandbox Solutions to build custom web parts
– design browser based forms using InfoPath forms

Update: Azure, jQuery & SharePoint: Huh? [Nov 26]

… three permutations of how SharePoint can map to or integrate with the cloud:

  1. Office 365 (with specific focus on SharePoint Online). Office 365 represents the next wave of hosted productivity applications (and includes Office 2010 Client, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and Exchange Online).
  2. SharePoint WCM. Essentially, building Internet-facing web sites using SharePoint 2010.
  3. SharePoint integrating with wider cloud services. This might be leveraging Twitter or Facebook to harvest social data and creating ‘socially intelligent’ solutions in SharePoint or using Bing or Azure to create expansive applications that integrate/leverage the cloud.

… a number of different patterns that cut across Twitter and SharePoint integration, oData and Office/SharePoint integration, Office Server-Side services, and SharePoint and Azure.

One pattern … was integrating jQuery and Azure in SharePoint. This pattern is interesting because you’re leveraging jQuery as a client technology in SharePoint and also using Excel Services, and you could potentially divorce yourself from server-side dependencies to integrate with Azure, thus no need to install assemblies on the server. This means that you have improved code reusability across SharePoint On-premises and SharePoint Online.

… Using jQuery is interesting; using it in the context of Azure service-calls to update views  is compelling (think financial models that depend on a cloud-service that delivers daily integer values that have significant cascading effects on the model).

This post showed you how you could leverage an Azure WCF service call and wrap with an ASMX SOAP call, which you could then use in JavaScript and jQuery to update an Excel view. The next step would be to craft an app that will eventually live and act entirely in the cloud—i.e. it uses data stored in Azure and uses jQuery to interact with an Azure WCF service.

Update : Chris Mayo’s Blog – SharePoint Development in the Cloud for more information continously updated

So this is what I could only do now.

Microsoft characterizes Office 365 in the press release as:

… the company’s next generation in cloud productivity that brings together Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online in an always-up-to-date cloud service. … Office 365 is built on years of experience delivering industry-leading business cloud services ranging from the first browser-based e-mail [i.e. Hotmail] to today’s Business Productivity Online Suite [BPOS], Microsoft Office Live Small Business and Live@edu.

… With Office 365 for small businesses, professionals and small companies with fewer than 25 employees can be up and running with Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and an external website in just 15 minutes, for $6 or 5.25 euros per user, per month.

Office 365 for enterprises introduces an array of choices for midsize and large businesses as well as government organizations, starting for as little as $2 or 1.75 euros per user, per month1 for basic e-mail. Office 365 for enterprises also includes the option to get Microsoft Office Professional Plus desktop software on a pay-as-you-go basis, for the first time ever. For $24 or 22.75 euros per user, per month1, organizations can get Office Professional Plus along with e-mail, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, Web portals, extranets, voiceconferencing and videoconferencing, webconferencing, 24×7 phone support, on-premises licenses, and more.

Office 365 will be available worldwide next year. Starting today, Microsoft will begin testing Office 365 with a few thousand organizations in 13 countries and regions around the world, and the beta will be expanded to include more organizations over time. Office 365 will be generally available in 40 countries and regions next year.

And here are two screenshots to illustrate the kind of capabilities (see more on Microsoft’s image gallery):

With Office Web Apps, you can review documents and do lightweight editing from virtually anywhere and on any device with a browser.

With Office Web Apps, you can review documents and do lightweight editing
from virtually anywhere and on any device with a browser. (The image is courtesy of Microsoft)

With co-authoring, edit the same document at the same time with others.
No more multiple versions or waiting your turn. (The image is courtesy of Microsoft)

From the Hello Office 365 [Oct 18] post on the new Microsoft Office 365 blog comes a more detailed overview of the differences from the well known Office product suite on our PCs:

… Office 365 is the next step in the future of productivity. Is this what’s next for BPOS? Yes. Is this what’s next for Office Live Small Business?  Yes.  Is this what’s next for Live@edu? Yes. Will Office desktop software be available as part of a cloud service? Yes. Is this productivity in the cloud? Yes.  And, it’s even more than that.

… With Office 365, everything is designed to work together.  Earlier this year, the launch of our flagship products, Office, SharePoint, and Exchange 2010 ushered in the future of productivity.  Together with Lync, these products provide the backbone for the modern business. Customers using these 2010 products are benefiting from super productive employees who can work from anywhere, on any device and from anywhere in the world. But what if you are the local cupcake shop on Main Street – have you been using all these kinds of tools for your business?  Probably not. What if you are a bigger business, trapped on legacy technology that limits accessibility behind the firewall – have your people been as productive as those using the latest innovations?  Probably not.

Now, you can have it all with Office 365.  We’ve not only designed and built our flagship products to work together, but with Office 365, we’re taking the next step and delivering all these capabilities as designed in the cloud.  ‘Rich presence’ suddenly lights up everywhere in Office, and you can see at-a-glance if a colleague is available and call, IM, e-mail, or even start a video conference in one click.  You can bring social networking to everyday work tasks like document sharing and collaboration – but with all the security and privacy that a business requires.  These are just a couple of the many amazing features you get with Office 365.

… You’ll be able to pick and choose services and tailor the package to fit your needs – whether you are a government agency, small business or enterprise company; whether you have information workers or factory floor workers, store managers on location or on the go, or a combination of all types.

‘Game changer’ is a big statement, but we believe this will change the way you do business. The technology is the latest, most up-to-date and comprehensive service you can find.  It’s based on Office, so you already know how to use it. It’s online and designed to work with the software, phones and browsers people use most today, including the new Windows Phones as well as a host of others. We are investing deeply and have tens of thousands of people around the world backing this service. We have secured the industry’s most rigorous security and privacy standards and will bring those to Office 365 along with 24/7 phone and community support. …

What Is Office 365? an official Microsoft video [Oct 19]:

What is Office 365? What the product-related Microsoft leaders are saying about a few of the productivity, communication and collaboration benefits of Microsoft Office 365?

Watch Chris Capossela, Senior Vice President, Microsoft Business Division; Betsy Webb, General Manager, Microsoft Business Division; Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Online Services, and Takeshi Numoto, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Business Division.

From the Office 365 site:

[mixed with a little additional information from this:] Office 365 Fact Sheet (docx file)

Microsoft Office: The world’s leading productivity tool on the desktop (Office Professional Plus) and on the Web (Office Web Apps) now seamlessly connected and delivered with cloud services – for the best productivity experience across the PC, Phone and Browser.

Sharepoint Online: Cloud-based service helps businesses of all sizes create sites to share documents and insights with colleagues, partners and customers. Includes enterprise social networking and customization options.

Exchange Online: Cloud-based email, calendar and contacts with the most current antivirus and anti-spam solutions. Includes the ability to get e-mail on virtually any mobile phone and options for voice mail, unified messaging and archiving.

Lync Online: Cloud-based instant messaging, presence, and online meeting experiences with PC-audio, video conferencing and screen sharing.

Office 365 FAQ

Microsoft Office 365 blog

More information:

In the Cloud With Kurt DelBene [Oct 19]. Microsoft News Center caught up with newly appointed Microsoft Office Division President Kurt DelBene to discuss the strategy and his view of cloud services. A Q&A type article.

Microsoft Office 365: The Power to Think Big and Be Small, to Be Big and Act Fast [Oct 19]. A Microsoft provided feature story to illustrate that the productivity power of the cloud just got a turbo boost for customers of all sizes. To show via a number of case studies that:

Any business will be able to transform the way it works with Office 365, and make it dramatically easier for people to connect to co-workers, partners, customers and the information that keeps business moving forward – instead of spending valuable time on technology management and maintenance.

Microsoft Online Services Team Blog

Microsoft Online Services gives your business the powerful productivity capabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server, Microsoft Office Communications Server, and Microsoft Office Live Meeting —all hosted online and all up and running quickly and easily without the upfront costs of an on-premise deployment. The suite of productivity tools enables your workers to communicate and collaborate effectively, while enabling your IT team to focus on more business-critical tasks. And with services hosted by Microsoft, you can have peace of mind knowing that experts are managing your IT and that your services will be available when you need them.

Erik Gunvaldson, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Online, http://www.microsoft.com/online

Office 365 and the Family Tree – Leadership [Oct 19]. New customers for the current BPOS (as the previous, not so full version available in production version, is named), and illustration of the completeness and leadership quality of the Office 365 composite parts via their evaluation by Gartner in their “Magic Quadrants” as:

Horizontal Portal ProductsLeader

Corporate Telephony – Visionary

Web Content Management – Challenger

Unified CommunicationsLeader

Externally Facing Social Software – Challenger

Enterprise Wireless E-Mail SoftwareLeader

IT Project and Portfolio Management  – Leader

Secure Email Gateways April 2010 Leader

Business Process Analysis Tools  – Leader

Business Intelligence Platforms (Public) – Leader

Unified Communications as a Service North America – Challenger

Social Software –  Leader

Enterprise Content Management Leader

Information Access (Enterprise Search) Leader

Managed File Transfer – Challenger

Web Conferencing Leader

State of California Selects CSC and BPOS! Google Can’t Meet Needs of the State [Oct 19]:

… the State of California awarded CSC a contract to migrate its current multiple e-mail applications to a cloud-based solution with Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).Please take time to read more about the announcement.

This decision for Microsoft is similar to recent announcements by the State of Minnesota’s, Commonwealth of Kentucky DOE even the Royal Mail in the UK to upgrade their messaging and collaboration software with Microsoft’s technology.

I found it odd when Google went very public with complaints of rigging and trickery on behalf of the State during the bid process only to later acknowledge Google Apps couldn’t meet the needs of the state. Such a PR smoke screen is a way to go on the offense with ton’s of players so no one notices you have an empty net. Gretzky would be proud.

What’s even more odd about Google’s tactics are that from what I understand some of their questions and concerns were answered or remedied by the State.  The Ad Company complained that many of the requirements put forth were too Microsoft centric or simply wrong to ask for in the first place.  Some of these radical features included elements like:

  • allowing a user to create a mail ‘folder’
  • ‘request delivery receipt’ for a email.
  • ‘ability to invite attendees as optional in calendar notices.’
  • ‘ability to create calendar appointments or task while off line’

Sorry Google, these are actual features used in businesses, especially in government where understanding and tracking information flow can be the law.

It’s not unfair for a company in any sector to request a set of features that reflect how they work. I’ve said it many times before, developing software is hard.  It’s gets harder the more users you get because everyone has different needs.  As a software company you balance this by building for what they need AND building for what you know they’ll want.  Google must understand that simply showing up isn’t good enough. Despite their attractive price, more and more customers share that ‘you get what you pay for’.

Then some more information is provided on this Google competitive situation with heated comments following that by Jim McNelis from a Google Apps Authorized Reseller, with answers to them provided by the same Microsoft author. An excellent glimpse into the current competition which could just intensify when Office 365 will become production ready in [the first half of] 2011 [presumably, as seen below]. A must read!

Ten more tidbits on Microsoft’s new Office 365 cloud play [Oct 19] from Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet. A very good analysis. Greatly recommended. Things like this are mentioned by the author:

1. When do the BPOS v2 services — the new Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online — go live?

A: Microsoft execs are saying 2011. But a Microsoft fact sheet I saw today said “early 2011.” This past  summer, Microsoft execs told partners that the new version of BPOS would be out in the first half of this year. So I’m saying (unless there’s a delay) that “first half of 2011″ is probably a safe bet — even though Lync Server 2010 still has not been released to manufacturing and the Lync Online update of that product won’t be ready until early 2011, at best.

Browser Requirements (for Administration Center and My Company Portal): Internet Explorer 7 or above, Firefox 3.x, Safari 4.x

Browser Requirements (for Outlook Web App): Internet Explorer 7 or above; Firefox 3 or higher; Safari 3 or higher on Macintosh OS X 10.5; Chrome 3 and later versions. Note: Outlook Web App also has a light version that supports a reduced set of features across almost any browser

The lowest-priced option is the basic version of Office 365, which is the new name for the Deskless Worker SKU. It includes e-mail and is priced at $2 per user per month.

For SMBs (primarily 1-25 users), Microsoft is offering a $6 per user per month SKU that was codenamed “BPOS Lite.” The high-end version of Office 365 is the full enterprise SKU, which includes licenses for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online for $10 per user per month. Users can add licenses for their users of Office desktop software, on a subscription basis), raising the price to $24 per user per month.

Office Live Small Business is going away. From Microsoft: “The Office Live Small Business service will continue to run as it does today through at least October 2011. As a valued Office Live Small Business customer, you will be offered 3 months free of the Union (the codename for Office 365) service should you choose to transition your account to Office 365. Nothing will change for Office Live Small Business customers now.”


Live Meeting, the conferencing component of BPOS, goes away as a standalone product with Office 365. That functionality is going to be part of Lync Online.

Microsoft christens its cloud business suite as ‘Office 365’; launches beta [Oct 19] also from Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet. Equally good. Some additional “information nuggets”:

It’s been known for some time that Microsoft was refreshing its BPOS elements with a number of the features it has delivered (or soon will deliver, in the case of its Lync offering) as part of its “Wave 14″ on-premises software releases. Exchange Online in the new version of BPOS will get features from Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 1. SharePoint Online will get some of the features — especially the Office Web Apps support — that are part of the SharePoint Server 2010 release. Lync Online will get selected features from the Lync Server 2010 product that Microsoft is expected to release to manufacturing any day now. (The Live Meeting conferencing product, which used to be part of the BPOS bundle, is being subsumed by Lync.)

On the promised feature list, in addition to updates to the core products in the suite, were also single sign-on with identity federation; a redesigned User Interface (for the console); More administration and access control; support for new markets and languages; and an enhanced Syndication partner interface. (”Syndication” is Microsoft’s program allowing mostly telco companies, but also some other partners to private-label its BPOS services.)


1 Comment

  1. […] 2011 released now! [Oct 2] post regarding that. We also have the Office add-on to that, see my Microsoft Office 365 SaaS (now in limited Beta) [Oct 20] post regarding that. Also these are essential parts of well thought-out overall strategy, […]

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