Office 365

Launching New Office 365 for Business

Office 365 launched with three new plans.

Microsoft announced a major new update to its Office 365 services for business, aimed at the needs and budgets of a wide range of organizations, from small, medium-size and large organizations.

Business users can get Office apps on up to five devices, delivered as a cloud service, plus Lync Online, Exchange Online and SharePoint Online services. Office 365 business users get enterprise social capabilities with SharePoint and Yammer today, and by June should have Lync-Skype connectivity for presence, instant messaging (IM), and voice.

Microsoft revealed three Office 365 plans:

Office 365 ProPlus. Office 365 ProPlus includes the latest and most complete set of fully featured, rich Office applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, InfoPath and Access — delivered as a service, on up to five devices. Office 365 ProPlus is available as a standalone offering for $144 per user for an annual subscription and is included with the updated premium Office 365 Enterprise offerings and the new Office 365 Midsize Business.

Office 365 Midsize Business. Office 365 Midsize Business is designed for medium-sized businesses with 10 to 250 employees. This service includes Office 365 ProPlus and provides midsize businesses with enterprise-quality communication and collaboration with Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online — along with the simplified IT tools they need to maintain control while reducing complexity. Active Directory integration, a Web-based administration console and business-hours phone support are also included. Pricing is $180 per user for an annual subscription, the equivalent of $15 per user, per month.

Office 365 Small Business Premium. Office 365 Small Business Premium is designed for small businesses with one to 10 employees. In addition to the complete set of rich Office applications, this service includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD videoconferencing capability in an easy-to-manage service that does not require IT expertise. Pricing is $150 per user for an annual subscription, the equivalent of $12.50 per user, per month.

Microsoft will continue to offer on-premises SharePoint and noted a December release for on-premises customers. The offering called "SharePoint Online" in the new Office 365 is based on SharePoint 2013, Microsoft said.

It will be possible to mix and match difference Office 365 subscriptions within a plan family, Microsoft representatives noted in the launch's online chat: "You can mix plans within a plan family so yes you can mix Enterprise E1, E3, E4, K1 plans. You can also mix Small Business plans P1 and P2 plans. M plans cannot be mixed with any others."

Asked whether there would be an E2 plan, Microsoft's Lars Johnson said "We are including Office Web Apps included in E1, which enables even more of our customers to get use of Office Web Apps while simplifying our lineup. E2 will continue to be available for existing customers."

Asked whether there are improvements in SharePoint templates or workflows that might be useful to smaller businesses, Microsoft's Mark Kashman said that project oriented improvements both in templates and apps are being offered. He also noted new support for "2013 Workflow" "to enable workflows to run outside of SharePoint, opening up the opportunity to have workflow integrate more easily with external systems."

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