Microsoft to beef up its entry-level Office 365 offering

Summary:Microsoft is adding new features to its low-end K-plan for Office 365, its cloud suite that competes with Google Apps.

Microsoft is adding some new capabilities -- including Exchange ActiveSync support -- to its lowest-end Office 365 offering.

In a post to his "The Office 365 Display Board" blog, Microsoft Senior Partner Technology Advisor Jesper Osgaard described some of the tweaks the Softies are making to the Office 365 K-plan (kiosk worker plan): Exchange Online Kiosk Plan: Microsoft is adding Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support for mobile devices to the current Exchange Online Kiosk plan. Currently, users with that plan only have POP mail capabilities. "With this change, we will enable all smartphones that support EAS, including iPhone, Andriod phones, Nokia phones (Symbian), and Windows phones," Osgaard blogged.

E-mail storage: Microsoft is doubling e-mail storage for K plan users from 500 MB to 1 GB.

Exchange Online Archiving: Microsoft will be enabling "Exchange Online Archiving (EOA) including legal hold and unlimited storage, to be offered as an add-on to any Exchange Online plan, including Kiosk and Exchange Plan 1," he said.

I asked Osgaard when these changes would be effective and he said that date is still TBD (to be determined). Microsoft is rolling out updates across Office 365 on a quarterly basis, with the latest batch of updates hitting at the end of 2011. Microsoft is believed to have sold in excess of 5 million Office 365 seats, 90 percent of which have gone to small businesses.

Office 365 is the Microsoft-hosted bundle of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online that Microsoft launched in late June 2010. It is considered to be Microsoft's alternative to Google Apps. The Kiosk plan for Office 365 currently starts at $2 per user per month. I have a question in to the Office 365 team on the timing and whether there will be any pricing changes as a result of these new features.

Update: Microsoft officials are not commenting on when the new features will be turned on. However, one Office 365 MVP, Loryan Strant, said that this will happen globally "around March 2012." Microsoft officials did say that the new features will be part of both Exchange Online K and Office 365 K, with prices remaining at $2 per user per month, and $4 per user per month, respectively.

Update No. 2 (January 9). And fixed on January 11: Back to pricing. Actually, there IS a price increase if you want these new features (contrary to how this was expressed to me by Microsoft last week). It will cost $3.50 per user per month more for these add-ons the archiving option. If you don't want the archiving, the other new new features, are going to be available as part of the same $2/$4 pricing per user per month.

Topics: Software, Collaboration, Microsoft

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Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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