Microsoft Office 365 is a commercial software plus services offering a set of products from Microsoft Corporation, with the initial plan including a Professional subscription (for organizations of 25 and smaller) and an Enterprise subscription (for organizations with more individuals). Office 365 was announced in the autumn of 2010, and is currently in beta. RTM (release to market) is planned to occur on 28 June 2011.
Office 365 includes the Microsoft Office suite of desktop applications and hosted versions of Microsoft’s Server products (including Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Lync Server), delivered and accessed over the Internet, in effect, the next version of Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS).
Microsoft Exchange Online
Microsoft Exchange Online is an messaging/personal information management service hosted on the cloud. The service is based on Microsoft Exchange server and offers 25 GB of email storage per licensed product. In addition, Exchange online offers users personalized calendars and contacts with sharing capability and 99.9% reliability in online secure back-up. Exchange ActiveSync provides mobile connectivity to Exchange services and mobile email applications.
Microsoft SharePoint Online
Microsoft SharePoint Online is a collaboration, sharing, and document editing service using internal and external sites. It can also be used to create public-facing Web sites.
Microsoft Lync Online
Microsoft Lync Online provides communications features including presence information, instant messaging, PC-to-PC audio/video calling and online meetings that can include PC audio, video and web conferencing with application sharing, whiteboards, and other collaboration tools. Lync Online is accessed through the Lync client. Lync Online also supports presence information and click-to-communicate features inside Microsoft Office applications. Currently the Lync components of Office 365 exclude Lync’s Enterprise Voice feature set.
Office Professional Plus
Microsoft Office Professional Plus in Office 365 provides the same client software as the Office Professional Plus product available through Microsoft Volume Licensing.
Office Professional Plus in Office 365 has month-to-month, per-user licensing. It can be installed by users from Microsoft Online Services. It is activated using the same Microsoft Online Services ID that users employ to sign in to Office 365 and the license is renewed on a 30-day cycle.
Office Web Apps
Office Web Apps are browser-based versions of Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint that enable viewing and lightweight editing of Office documents in Web browsers while preserving the formatting of the original documents.
Office 365 is available in a number of different plans aimed at different needs and market segments, providing different sets of features at different price points. These include:
Office 365 for enterprise: For businesses with internal or partner-supported IT staff and resources. Add on plans are available for information workers with dedicated PCs and kiosk workers (such as baristas or physicians) who share a PC and need only Web-based access.
Office 365 for small business: Designed for businesses without dedicated IT staff or resources.
Office 365 for education: Designed for schools and a replacement for the Office Live@edu service.
Microsoft has said that Office 365 will receive updates on a 90-day cycle.