Microsoft gives Office 365 a go-live date

Microsoft's Jon Roskill has confirmed the date when the company's web-based productivity suite, Office 365, goes live. If you're a fan, you won't have too long to wait.

Office 365 is Microsoft's response to the threat posed by popular on-line productivity suites such as Google Docs, which offer installation-free cloud-based access to the basics required from an office package. While they're mostly eating away at Microsoft's bottom end as home users opt to use free on-line service rather than shell out for an Office licence, they're seeing increasing uptake in the enterprise market too.

That's a threat that Microsoft can't risk ignoring: much of the company's profits come from licensing the Office suite, which has become something of a de facto standard for documents. To the point where people specifically ask for CVs in 'Word format' or spreadsheets as an 'Excel file.'

The programme has been in public beta since April, offering users 25GB of cloud-based storage and an Outlook-like webmail interface, along with on-line versions of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. Collaboration is also a key feature of the platform, and the Office 365 system integrates with Microsoft's Lync collaboration platform.

Designed primarily for business rather than home users, Office 365 isn't free: users will be asked to pay a fee starting at $4 per user per month. Whether the beta testers will stick around once the service goes live and a charge is levied remains to be seen. But we won't have long to wait.

According to Microsoft's Jon Roskill, the service will be live by the end of the month. "June 28th is the date for General Availability of Office 365," he told users on popular microblogging service Twitter. "100,000 real customers on beta - partners, are you ready?"

More information is available at the official Office 365 site.