Office 365 for business available worldwide today

27 Feb 2013

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Three business-focused packages for Office 365 see a worldwide launch in 87 markets and 20 languages today, as Microsoft updates one of its fastest-growing businesses.

Small business adoption of Office 365 grew 150pc in the past year, and the next generation of the service seeks even greater penetration in the SME market.

“We’re levelling the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses by helping them shift to new enterprise-class, cloud-based solutions which will help them to grow and compete more effectively both domestically and in global markets,” said Mike Huges, business manager of the Office division at Microsoft Ireland. “For larger organisations, it also frees up valuable time for IT departments who will no longer have to manage day-to-day IT issues, leaving them free to provide more value to the business.”

A complete Office in the cloud

The updated Office 365 is apparently Microsoft’s most complete Office cloud service to date and features updated Microsoft Lync Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft SharePoint Online services, as well as the usual suite of Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, InfoPath and Access. For enterprise social capabilities, SharePoint and Yammer are available at launch, with Lync-Skype connectivity coming in June.

The latest version allows users to toggle between a mouse or touch-based interface and comes with the ability to edit PDF files in Word, save to SkyDrive and pick up right where you left off, and add links, pictures and recording to notes taken in OneNote. Other handy new features include flash fill in Excel, smart guides to help with layouts in PowerPoint, and an attachment reminder, better visibility of draft emails and a three-day weather forecast on your calendar in Outlook.

Three packages to choose from

There are three Office 365 packages available for businesses, all of which can be purchased directly from Microsoft or through a retail partner.

Office 365 ProPlus (US$144 per user for an annual subscription) can be installed on up to five devices, including Macs, as an always up-to-date cloud service. It can run side-by-side with other versions of Office, so the IT department won’t be put out of joint, and tools to streamline and manage updates are provided.

Office 365 Midsize Business (US$180 per user per year), as you may have already guessed, is designed for medium-sized companies with 10 to 250 employees. It’s everything you get with the ProPlus package plus Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online, as well as Active Directory integration, a web-based administration console and business hours phone support.

For smaller businesses, there’s Office 365 Small Business Premium (US$150 per user per year), coming with the complete suite of Office applications plus business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD videoconferencing.

A free trial of Office 365 is available from www.office.com and the release will reach a further 20 markets and an additional 16 languages in Q2.

Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com