Microsoft announced at a press conference on Tuesday that from next year customers will be able to purchase access to its most popular business productivity software on a cloud subscription basis.
The suite will include Office 2010, Exchange ActiveSync, SharePoint, Lync and Microsoft's web apps and will be available to SMBs for $6 (£3.82) per month, per user and to enterprise users at a cost of $2-$27 per month, per user, depending on the contract purchased.
It is the first time that Microsoft has made the popular Office suite available as a cloud-based offering and the company says that, for its customers, Office 365 brings a number of advantages, such as better collaboration and more responsive IT environments.
"Office 365 is the best of everything we know about productivity, all in a single cloud service," said Kurt DelBene, president of the Office Division at Microsoft. "With Office 365, your local bakery can get enterprise-calibre software and services for the first time, while a multinational pharmaceutical company can reduce costs and more easily stay current with the latest innovations. People can focus on their business, while we and our partners take care of the technology."
The beta is due to open today at Office365.com but at the time of writing the web page was still showing a holding page.