Microsoft officially takes Office to the cloud
Office 365 or Google Apps, which is right for you

Microsoft has been talking up its cloud software future and trying to compete with Google Docs for quite some time. Microsoft dominates in productivity software with its Office suite that is used by a huge number of general consumers and enterprise users. As more and more businesses migrate from buying expensive software each year to using a cloud-based service with continual updates for a monthly subscription, Microsoft wants its part of that market as well.

Steve Ballmer said early this month that Microsoft Office 365 would launch in June, and he stuck to his word. Office 365 is the cloud-based version of the productivity software and is available for small and mid-size businesses. The service is pay as you go and the official pricing has now been unveiled. Office 365 for professionals and small businesses starts at $6 monthly per user and offers email, calendar, contacts, a personal archive, and 25GB of mailbox storage with 35MB for attachments with Exchange online. 

It will allow the viewing and basic editing of documents using Office Web Apps as well as access and viewing of files from a mobile phone. The service also includes SharePoint Online to allow the design of a website, desktop Office to web versions. Other features include Lync Online for instant messaging, online meetings, and PC-to-PC online audio and video calls.

Enterprise firms can get the service starting at $10 per user per month up to $27 per user per month depending on the features wanted. The enterprise $10 plan appears to be the same as the small business plan. Starting at $16 monthly, users can create and edit documents using Office Web Apps with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. At $24 monthly, the user gets all the features of the other plans and Office Professional Plus access, SharePoint Online advanced capabilities, and unlimited Exchange Online mail storage. A $27 monthly plan adds Lync Server on-premises to the offering.

Microsoft also offers a $2 monthly basic email plan. The competing Gmail service from Google is free. 

“Great collaboration is critical to business growth, and because it’s so important, we believe the best collaboration technology should be available to everyone,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “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.”

While Microsoft is making its Office 365 pricing public and taking new orders for the Service, Google and its competing Google Apps service are talking about why Google Apps is better. Google says that Office 365 is for individuals, while Google Apps is for teams. Google also notes that Office 365 is built for Windows-based PCs and Google Apps is built to work on just about any platform. Google Apps is also one price for everyone at $5 monthly with one plan and it has no contract.

Analyst Michael Silver from Gartner said of Office 365, "It [Office 365] puts Microsoft in a better position than they were -- they now have a broad product that they can more easily sell."
Office software is Microsoft's most profitable offering making $3 billion in the last quarter. Microsoft has smaller profits planned for its cloud offerings and views it as an effort to grab a larger slice of a company's tech spending overall.

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