Microsoft has officially launched its Office 365 suite with a big focus on small businesses, which the software giant sees as the customer segment with most to gain from the new cloud-based productivity services.
Available from today, Office 365 provides access to cloud-hosted email, messaging and collaboration tools, plus Microsoft's web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, with prices starting at £4 per user per month.
Meanwhile, versions of the suite aimed at larger organisations also allow customers to download and install the full Office 2010 applications, and mix and match on-premise and cloud capabilities, according to Microsoft.
However, it is smaller companies where Microsoft sees the greatest opportunity for the new services, since it enables them to get access to some Microsoft products on a subscription basis, and with little or no need to install any software.
"SMBs have an enormous amount to gain with Office 365, as it brings together enterprise-class email, collaboration and the familiar Office applications. It can be difficult for small businesses to gain a competitive advantage in the business world, but this enables them to have those enterprise class capabilities," said Gordon Frazer, Microsoft UK managing director.
Dale Vile of analyst firm Freeform Dynamics agreed, saying that it is not typically price that attracts small businesses, but access to capabilities that would otherwise be beyond their reach.
"It's not always about cost, but that you can do things you otherwise could not do without on-premise servers," he said.
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