Microsoft went public this week at its TechEd conference with more details on "what's coming soon for BPOS v.Next."
BPOS, Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, is a bundle of several Microsoft-hosted cloud applications, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online, Live Meeting (and, according to one slide I saw this week at the show, Forefront Online Security for Exchange).
In a session at this week's New Orleans conference, Tom Keane, Principal Group Program Manager, outlined the near-term priorities for Microsoft's alternative to Google Apps.
As Microsoft has told customers and partners previously, it will be phasing in various capabilities introduced with its on-premises Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010 and still-to-be-released Communicator 2010 products into BPOS (both the shared/multitenant Standard edition and the single-user Dedicated one). Microsoft also will be adding in the coming months support for single sign-on with identity federation, a redesigned console user interface and more granular administrator and access controls for BPOS, Keane said.
In the coming months, Microsoft will be integrating Office 2010 support into the suite, both in terms of adding SignIn application support for Outlook 2010 and Office client/Web Apps integration with SharePoint Online, as well.
Microsoft is introducing a Blackberry portal capability for BPOS users, enabling self-service management for Blackberry customers running OS 4.5 or higher. They will be able to manage Blackberry licenses, handle user activation, remotely wipe devices and reset activation passwords via this portal, Keane said.
On the identity front, Microsoft is adding to BPOS the ability to sign into the cloud using corporate IDs. There will be single sign-on options for both end users and administrators, and two-factor authentication options will be available, Keane told show attendees. Identity will be administered only on-premises, however, he noted.
Microsoft also will support the ability to sign in using Microsoft Online IDs. In this scenario, users and administrators will have two IDs: One for the cloud and one for on-premises, and IDs will be administered both on-premises and in the cloud.
On the BPOS back-end, a new optional service connector will be available to replace the current service agent. This connector will install updates required for BPOS via Windows Update, and configure client apps like Outlook, Communicator, and Internet Explorer. Those who don't want automatic updates will still be able to update client machines manually and/or by using group policy or System Center.
In terms of other near-term deliverables, Microsoft is commiting to provide in BPOS v.Next native PowerShell scripting via a PowerShell endpoint build on PowerShell Version 2. Authentication will be done through Online IDs, with a single credential being able to be used for both PowerShell and the portal.Keane echoed the message other Microsoft execs have been voicing at TechEd this week: Cloud capabilities, over time, will become a superset of what is available on-premises. Currently, the reverse is true, and Microsoft's Online services offer a subset of the functions available in the software equivalents of each product.