Microsoft has launched its cloud-computing productivity suite, Office 365, in SA. The suite includes various collaboration options and will be available to SA users as a free trial until its commercial launch sometime next year.
Office 365 is a direct competitor to rival Google’s Docs platform.
Tracy Bolton, Microsoft SA’s productivity solutions leader, says pricing will range from R50 to R200 per user per month, depending on the options selected. The cheaper option includes all online functionality, while the top-end offering provides the ability to download Office 2010 to users’ devices for offline use.
Melanie Botha, Microsoft SA’s marketing and operations leader, says Office 365 can be used by any sized business, from those with a handful of employees, right up to multinational enterprises. As it is browser based, and supports all major browsers, including Apple’s Safari, it can be used on most devices.
Those interested in trialling the service can sign up at www.office365.co.za. Microsoft SA says the trial will run for approximately six months, after which users will be advised of the move to a commercial model and given the option to pay to continue using the service.
SA users will enjoy full functionality and will be able to pay for the service in local currency.
Part of the reason SA users will get to enjoy such a lengthy trial is because SA has been on the roadmap for Office 365 for some time, and Microsoft says it’s important to offer a “try-before-you-buy” option. After commercial launch, users will still be offered a 30-day trial in keeping with that approach.
On signing up, trial users will be offered a custom “.onmicrosoft.co.za” domain. Commercial users will be able to use their own domain. After signing up, users are made administrators and can allocate up to 25 mailboxes, each with 25GB of storage.
All of the mailboxes support Microsoft Exchange Online and offer various collaboration options, including the ability to share contacts, calendars, and documents and participate in video conference calls and even share desktops.
The service also offers Online SharePoint, which, in addition to the collaboration options, means an administrator can create intranet team sites or external sites customers can sign into. Office 365 also offers Lync Online, Microsoft’s unified communications client that includes instant messaging, desktop sharing, “white-boarding” and video sharing.
The service is available immediately. Microsoft SA says it can’t confirm when next year the service will be commercialised, but says users of the service will be given fair warning before it happens. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
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