- Title: USA: Microsoft rolls out Office in the cloud
- Date: 29th June 2011
- Summary: NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (JUNE 28, 2011) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) SAMARA LYNN, BUSINESS AND NETWORKING ANALYST AT PCMAGAZINE.COM, SAYING: "A lot of businesses like healthcare, like finance will be more hesitant to adopt a cloud service like office 365 because they are no longer in control of their data."
- Embargoed: 14th July 2011 08:55
- Location: Usa, Usa
- Country: USA
- Topics: Business,Communications,Economic News,Technology
- Reuters ID: LVADJE3MKGQMU7DJVSSN33V4WP0K
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Software giant Microsoft rolls out "Office 365", taking its popular office suite program that includes Outlook, Word and Excel into the world of "cloud" computing making it available online.
Microsoft Corp made its biggest move into the mobile, Internet-accessible world of "cloud" computing on Tuesday (June 28), taking the wraps off a revamped online version of its hugely profitable Office software suite.
The world's largest software company is heaving its two-decade old set of applications -- including Outlook email, Excel spreadsheets and SharePoint collaboration tools -- into an online format so that customers can use them on a variety of devices from wherever they can get an Internet connection.
Chief Executive Steve Ballmer presented the overhauled and updated set of offerings -- collectively called Office 365 -- at an event in New York City on Tuesday morning, stressing that online versions and built-in conferencing tools can save users money, especially small and medium-sized businesses.
Microsoft has offered online versions of some Office programs -- chiefly Outlook email -- for its corporate customers for several years, and last year rolled out free versions for individual home users.
But it's with Office 365 that Microsoft has created a winner, according to industry analysts.
"This is the first cloud service productivity suite that I've seen from Microsoft where you really don't get any sacrifice of features. Everything you see in Outlook, in Word in Excel on your desktop, you have that functionality in the cloud," said Samara Lynn, an analyst at PC Magazine, who tested the beta version.
Office 365 is Microsoft's attempt to push back against Google Inc, which has stolen a small but worrying percentage of corporate customers with cheaper, web-only alternatives, which remove the need for companies to spend time on installing software or managing servers.
But Lynn said that with the launch Office 365, it's Google that now should be worried.
"This is a real challenge for Google. Microsoft is targeting Google. Google apps and Google documents and make no mistake they are targeting it hard and they are already entrenched in business. Microsoft already has business. So this is a big deal for Google," Lynn said.
The market for web-based software services is heating up, and every company, government department and local authority is getting pitches from Microsoft and Google whenever they reevaluate their office software.
It's a new challenge for Microsoft, which built itself up on expensive versions of software installed on individual computers. That business model turned the Office unit into Microsoft's most profitable, earning more than $3 billion alone last quarter.
Microsoft's plan is to make up for smaller profit margins from web-based applications -- due to the cost of handling data and keeping up servers -- by grabbing a larger slice of companies' overall technology spending.
Microsoft said it will charge from $2 U.S. dollars per user per month for basic email services to $27 U.S. dollars per user per month for advanced offerings. Google charges a flat fee of $50 U.S. dollars per user per year for its web-based Google Apps product, which offers email, calendars, word processing and more online.
Microsoft, like Google, will host users' data remotely, and maintain all the servers in vast data centers. Unlike Google, it will also allow companies to put their data on dedicated servers should they choose, or keep the data on their own premises.
Although a cheaper alternative for many companies, Lynn said that data privacy might be an issue.
"A lot of businesses like healthcare, like finance will be more hesitant to adopt a cloud service like Office 365 because they are no longer in control of their data," she explained.
The full launch of Office 365, which has been in beta testing since last autumn, spices up the lively competition with Google for new users.
Earlier this month, Google snagged InterContinental Hotels Group as a major customer, moving 25,000 of its employees onto Google email from Outlook Google, which has had the most success in the small and medium-sized business range, says there are now 40 million users of online Google Apps suite. Microsoft does not publish equivalent numbers, but research firm comScore has estimated 750 million people worldwide use Office in some form.
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