Two weeks back, we announced our latest Cloud offering – Office 365.  This set of software plus services products (now available in Beta) encompasses the entire gambit of Microsoft’s communication and collaboration product suites including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online with the newly added benefit of Microsoft Office Professional Plus included as the local client-side software, or available as a subscription offering. 

For those of you who are aware of or are already customers of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (aka BPOS), Office 365 is the next and latest version of BPOS, essentially “BPOS 2.0” with the latest versions (Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Lync Server) of all of the released products hosted in this service offering.  Available as an entire suite with all of the products included or a la carte as individual or a collection of offerings and features, Office 365 gives you access to hosted versions of Exchange Server 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Lync Server at an extremely low cost to you with no infrastructure required to run these essential business services. 

First off, the main Office 365 site is the place to start and begin to understand how this set of services can help your company increase productivity by running the latest Microsoft software AND reduce costs by offloading the infrastructure necessary to host these services to the Microsoft cloud.  Rather than rehash what has already been outlined quite well by the product teams, I’ll point you to some overview documents like What is Office 365 to get a quick overview of the features of the service offering.  If you like what you see, approximately 2000 Beta slots were made available shortly after the beta announcement and if you didn’t make it in, keep in mind that signing up to be a part of the Beta will get you a spot in line when we expand the Office 365 beta program and add more seats.

As I alluded to above, a new offering finally available to the non-volume license customers with Office 365 is the ability to get the Office Professional Plus suite by only paying a monthly fee instead of having to purchase the entire suite up front.  Volume licensees had access to this Office Pro Plus SKU previously, though individuals who purchased software via retail channels did not. The Office Pro Plus SKU is the full Office family of products  — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint Workspace, Outlook, Publisher, Access, InfoPath and the Lync communications client.

To read more from the official press release of Office 365, check here: http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2010/oct10/10-19Office365.mspx

Be sure to check back at my blog to see more content on Office 365 in the coming months!