Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday did a global launch of its Office 365 platform, which it’s selling through a number of channel-centric service providers including – in the United States – AppRiver, InterCall and PGi.
Office 365, unified communications and collaboration software, combines Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync in the cloud. But it also connects to other Microsoft programs including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. Office 365 has been around since last year in beta testing, with SMBs comprising a majority of users; as a result, Microsoft introduced Office 365 with monthly subscription rates suitable for small businesses.
“It costs no more than a Starbucks and a muffin," said Mayra Luis-Castillo, industry director of cloud application services for Microsoft’s Operator Channel.
To be clear, the expense is calculated per month, per user – figure between $6 and $10, and that’s Microsoft’s wholesale rate. The software giant’s service-provider partners will determine end-user pricing, as well as agent and VAR commissions.
Nonetheless, Microsoft is targeting a sector it historically has not, and all because of SMBs’ spending clout. According to research firm Gartner Inc., SMBs buy $800 billion worth of IT products each year. So, the benefit of Office 365 for smaller companies is that they get the same productivity tools as enterprises, while keeping capex and opex budgets in line, Microsoft said.
“It’s really making this technology affordable to [SMBs]," Luis-Castillo said. “It’s an offering that’s accessible to their wallet size … and helps them get faster into the cloud."
“The cloud" is critical for businesses in general, and for road warriors, and remote and field workers, in particular. That’s because “the cloud" lets them access corporate information from anywhere, from any Web-connected device.
“It’s a big advantage when you’re trying to close a deal or access inventory records," said Luis-Castillo.
Microsoft announced a number of service provider partners worldwide that now sell Office 365; in the United States, channel-friendly names include SaaS provider AppRiver; conferencing firm InterCall, owned by West Corp.; and conferencing company Premiere Global Inc., or PGi.