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Microsoft officially launches Office 365 for businesses

Remember the little story we ran a few months back about how Microsoft was attempting to make life easier for businesses by pitching the then beta version of its cloud-based productivity suite, Office 365, as a solution to allow business consumers the luxury of not having to worry about maintaining their own IT infrastructure? Well, the good news is that users can finally start migrating away from the beta, for Microsoft has just officially launched the finalized version of Office 365 today in a media event held at Swissotel The Stamford.

Hit up the link for the coverage of today's event…

For those who would remember, VR-Zone ran a story a couple of months ago which talked about Microsoft's unveiling of the then beta version of its cloud-based productivity solution for businesses. Known as Office 365, the idea was that Microsoft's new offering, which combines the functionality of Microsoft office, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online together into a single, tightly-integrated cloud offering will help business users to enhance their productivity by ensuring that their data will remain accessible at all times, online collaboration will be as seamless as possible, and that the IT department can spend more time dealing with user-specific issues.

That sounded great and all, save for one little problem: there was no mention as to when the finalized version of Office 365 will be released for public use. Fortunately, the last piece of the puzzle has fallen into place, for Microsoft has officially announced the availability of Office 365 in a press event held at Swissotel The Stamford, where it will be offered to businesses at a modest subscription fee of US$6 a month per user.  And speaking at the event's opening address today was productivity guru Michael A. Podolinsky, who described in great detail the importance of the cloud and Microsoft's Office 365 in helping businesses transform themselves and achieving even greater productivity.

 "Because of the connectivity aspect of the cloud… 60% of the IT focus this year is going to be about it. And with almost three-quarters of the people and companies involved in it, this is a tipping point which we will not go back from," he said, while adding that adoption of Office 365 is expected to be seamless due to the fact that most consumers are already familiar with the way Microsoft Office works.

Podolinsky also described how businesses do not have to worry about compatibility or security issues on Office 365, as Microsoft will ensure that the software on its servers always remain up to date, and that systems administrators will always have full control over their data in the cloud to ensure that company files or information do not get removed or destroyed without the proper authorization.

Up next was Microsoft's Chief Operating Officer for Asia Pacific, Andy Pickup, who talked about what users can expect from Office 365 now that the finalized version of the service is already available for subscription.

"This is the first time Microsoft has offered a premiere productivity suite in a cloud-based service format. Customers will be able to choose between a rich client that is downloaded on one's device and used in that way, or to opt for a cost-effective, affordable and predictable service fee that allows them to access Office through the power of the Internet," he said.

In addition, Pickup also described other benefits users can expect to derive from utilizing its Office 365 solution, such as the assurance of having 99.9% server uptime and a "rich and powerful experience" that stems from the seamless integration among various Microsoft services, along with ready access to the service regardless of location via an Internet connection. All of this, he said, can be had for a subscription fee that costs less "than a cup of cappuccino".

"Our heads are up in the cloud, but our feet are very firmly here on the ground," he quipped.

That being said, we should point out that Microsoft has got a total of seven different price plans for users who are keen to sign up for Office 365. The one which Pickup described as costing only US$6 a month is targeted at small businesses and individuals, and offers 25GB of email, along with access to Office Web Apps, SharePoint and the Lync enterprise instant messaging client. Larger enterprises will have up to six price plans to choose from, four of which cost between US$10 to US$27 per user per month, while the other two for kiosk workers are priced at US$4 and US$10 per person. Of course, the more costly plans will come with added features such unlimited Exchange storage, the full desktop Office suite, Lync voice capabilities and Office Professional Plus.

Alternatively,  there is also the free 30-day trial which can be obtained from the Microsoft's product page if you feel the need to give Office 365 a test spin before deciding to commit yourself to a full-time subscription for the service. Last but definitely not least, more information about the various components which make up the complete package that is Office 365 can also be obtained there.

VR-Zone is a leading online technology news publication reporting on bleeding edge trends in PC and mobile gadgets, with in-depth reviews and commentaries.

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