Microsoft Introduces Hosted Productivity Suite

Microsoft has officially launched an integrated online product called Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) for the European and Asian market, 24 hours before CeBIT starts in Germany.

The software giant has also announced that leading healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which owns brands such as Sensodyne and Panadol, will move its 103,000 employees from IBM's Lotus Notes and Google's Postini to Microsoft new Online productivity suite.

GlaxoSmithKline posted a succinct blog post saying that the company expects to "reduce our IT operational costs by roughly 30% of what we're spending now and introduce a variable cost subscription model for these technologies that allows us to more rapidly scale or divest our investment as necessary as we undergo a transformational change in the pharmaceutical industry."

The Business Productivity Online Suite includes Exchange for email, SharePoint, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting; exchange online will come with 5GB of shared storage which can be increased for around £5 for every 3GB chunk per month.

Data will be saved in Microsoft's data centres which are based in Europe for regulatory reasons.

The European/Asian launch comes four months after BPOS was introduced in the US; users in 18 countries including Canada, UK, Japan and New Zealand will be able to test the new services online thanks to a 30 day trial period.

Microsoft has also stated that there will be a more economical email, calendaring and collaboration service for the "occasional" user called Business Productivity Online Deskless Worker suite which will cost only £25.50 per annum.

This compares favourably with £128 for the full-fledged four-application suite and £37 that users have to fork out for Google Apps. BPOS is being viewed as Microsoft answer to the growing threat of online collaboration services offered by the likes of Google and Lotus.

Altogether, BPOS is expected to save users between 10 and 50 percent in IT related expenditures, thanks partly to the level of integration with Microsoft's infrastructure software which allows employees and messages to be managed centrally.

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Our Comments

Microsoft is already preparing web-based versions of Microsoft Office and these should be launched before the end of next year, depending on where the economy is heading. Furthermore Microsoft claims a 99.9 percent availability and promise to refund customers their subscription fees if the uptime falls below 95 percent. Will businesses convert to SaaS in these hard times?

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