Microsoft Office 365 Now Available for Public Consumption
At a media event in New York June 28, 2011, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer cut the ribbon on the Microsoft Office 365 cloud suite, proclaiming it available for customers and channel partners alike in 40 markets worldwide. Office 365 represents Microsoft’s biggest foray into the SMB cloud services market to date, combining Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online into one single package.
Office 365, which officially replaces the Microsoft BPOS cloud productivity suite, launches with significant partner support — Microsoft messaging partner Azaleos Corp., for example, isn’t just reselling Office 365, the company also is providing hybrid unified communications services around it. And the Microsoft Office 365 Marketplace includes more than 174 partner cloud applications at launch.
Moreover, Microsoft said 20 major communications service providers around the world, including Bell Canada, Intuit, NTT Communications Corp., Telefonica S.A., Telstra Corp. and Vodafone Group Plc, plan to offer Office 365 to customers this year.
That said, Microsoft’s plan to maintain the billing relationship with customers divides the channel into four cloud camps, drawing ire among some of its partners and calling into question their role in the Office 365 ecosystem. However, The VAR Guy himself sees a rosy future for Office 365, regardless of whether Redmond reaches out to VARs, MSPs and cloud service providers for the new offering.
Here’s what Ballmer had to say about Office 365’s value proposition in a prepared statement:
“Great collaboration is critical to business growth, and because it’s so important, we believe the best collaboration technology should be available to everyone. With a few clicks, Office 365 levels the playing field, giving small and midsize businesses powerful collaboration tools that have given big businesses an edge for years.”
I think Google with its Google Apps offering would agree with Ballmer’s sentiment about cloud collaboration, but the search giant has gone on record as saying that Office 365’s software-plus-services approach is hopelessly backwards. So between its rivalry with Google, skepticism about the public cloud and a recent BPOS e-mail outage, Microsoft has its work cut out to keep Office 365 in good stead with its customer base.
TalkinCloud’s inboxes are filling up with Office 365-related news and announcements from partners everywhere, so make sure to keep watching us all week long for more news and perspective.