Microsoft takes Office 365 beta public

The cloud-based version of Microsoft's desktop Office suite, called Office 365, is now available to the general public in beta form.The beta software, which includes access to an online version of Office 2010 applications as well as SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Office and Microsoft Lync, is open to people in 38 countries and 17 languages, Microsoft said on Monday.

The cloud-based version of Microsoft's desktop Office suite, called Office 365, is now available to the general public in beta form.

The beta software, which includes access to an online version of Office 2010 applications as well as SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Office and Microsoft Lync, is open to people in 38 countries and 17 languages, Microsoft said on Monday.

Microsoft said that using the cloud-based version of its tools allows easier collaboration and broader access to its software at a range of price points.

The company has two different versions: one aimed at small businesses with less than 25 employees and one aimed at enterprises.

Pricing for the Small Business options starts from £4 per month, per user, and includes Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.

Enterprise options start at £1.30 per user, per month for basic email access, ranging up to around £17 per month for the full Office experience.

Office 365 for Enterprises also brings the option to purchase the desktop version of Microsoft Office Professional Plus on a pay-as-you-go basis.

"For £15.75 per user, per month, organisations can get Office Professional Plus, along with email, voicemail, enterprise social networking, instant messaging, web portals, extranets, video-conferencing, web-conferencing, 24/7 phone support and on-premises licences," Microsoft said in a statement.

The beta suite will remain free until the software launches later in the year, Microsoft said, though it did not give a firm date for the general release.

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