Microsoft's launch of its updated competitor to Google Apps, Office 365, is approaching. I'm hearing the Softies are closing in on the "code lock" for the product (slated for early June), with late June the likely new general-availability target.
Microsoft execs are doing a number of things to ready themselves internally and externally for Office 365, Microsoft's suite of hosted SharePoint, Exchange and Lync communications products. Internally, the company is moving some of its execs around as part of a reorganization in Server and Tools. As part of that reorg, Microsoft is moving the Online platform team, headed by Product Management chief Enron Kelly, from the Office division to the Server and Tools Marketing Group, as of July 1 (the start of Microsoft's fiscal 2012).
Kelly and his team are going to be working with Rajat Taneja on what's known as the "Service Delivery Platform" -- the underlying guts of Office 365, which includes the shared hosting infrastructure, commerce, user-experience/user interface, digital marketing and marketplace components. Kelly's team will be especially attuned to trying to figure out what kind of common commerce capabilities are needed in Windows Azure, Microsoft's Online Services division offerings, Xbox Live and adCenter, according to internal e-mail about the reorg. Microsoft execs have said Microsoft is planning to host Office 365 on Azure at some point, but haven't offered any kind of time frame as to when that might happen.
Externally, Microsoft and its partners are stepping up their educational campaign around the coming migration from Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) to Office 365. At TechEd 2011 last week, Microsoft offered a handful of Office 365 sessions about Office 365, including a couple specifically focused on the coming BPOS-Office 365 transition.
I've pulled a few slides from the "What Do Existing BPOS Customers Need to Do to Prepare for Microsoft Office 365?" talk at TechEd to highlight what BPOS users could and should do to get ready to move over to Office 365. There are a number of moving pieces, including the planned phase-out of the current Live Meeting audio/video conferencing service and the SharePoint Online Deskless Worker SKU; new password requirements; and URL changes for Outlook Web Access and portals.
The Deskless Worker SKU is being replaced by the new Office 365 K ("kiosk worker") plans. The Live Meeting service is being replaced by Lync Online, Microsoft's unified communications product that does business instant-messaging, audio/video conferencing, VOIP and more. As the slide below notes, Microsoft will offer customers currently using version 2 of Live Meeting rights to use the product through the end of the company's FY 13 (which will be June 30, 2013.)
(click on the slide above to enlarge)
As Microsoft execs said last year, Internet Explorer 6 won't be supported when Office 365 is launched. Nor will Office 2003 or Office Communicator 2007 R2.
Once Microsoft makes Office 365 generally available, the company will begin contacting existing customers and offering them a transition window as to when they'd prefer to make the move from BPOS to Office 365. Microsoft is staging the moves so that all customers are not moved over at once. The "Blackberry transition" -- a k a, the period when BPOS customers using Blackberry Enterprise Services are moved from Microsoft's hosted BES to RIM's hosted BES offering -- is not going to happen right away. Instead, it won't begin until late 2011 or early 2012, as some of my contacts had been hearing earlier this year.
Microsoft is planning to migrate its Live@Edu users to Office 365 in the spring or summer of 2012. Microsoft currently is planning to complete all of the migrations of existing users to Office 365 within a year from when the transition begins.
For more particulars about the planned transition that might be of interest to adminsitrators/IT managers, here's the link to the full Office 365 migration presentation from TechEd.
Update: Microsoft's Office 365 transition center also has migration information for BPOS users.