Microsoft takes aim at Google Apps with Office 365

Microsoft's new cloud-based productivity platform comes as former chief software architect, Ray Ozzie, announces his departure

Microsoft has fired the latest salvo in its battle with long-standing competitor Google with the launch of its cloud-based productivity platform, Office 365, due to hit Australian shores sometime next year.

The platform, which is now available in limited beta form in 13 countries and regions, combines Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync (Live Meeting). The platform will be delivered locally through partners including Telstra via its T-Suite platform, as well as through enterprise agreements direct from Microsoft.

Local pricing is yet to be announced, however pricing for companies with fewer than 25 employees will cost US users $US6 per user per month.

The service is more than likely to come into direct competition with Google’s enterprise cloud offering, Google Apps, which currently boasts three million businesses among its user base at a growth rate of 3000 businesses per day. The search giant currently offers its Apps for Enterprise platform at a cost of $50 per user, per year.

A spokesperson for Google declined to comment on whether the launch of Office 365 would impact on the number of Google Apps users, or whether the number of users has met the company’s expectations.

Microsoft claims the new platform will be available for businesses on a number of devices “from anywhere they have an internet connection” and will include the option to get the desktop-based Office Professional Plus software on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Organisations can get Office Professional Plus along with e-mail, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, Web portals, extranets, voice and video conferencing, web conferencing, 24/7 phone support as well as on-premises licenses.