Microsoft is already thinking ahead, in spite of having just announced general avilability of Office 365, its hosted cloud-application bundle, on June 28.
And already the Redmondians are planning on expanding Office 365 in multiple ways -- both by adding other applications to the cloud-hosted suite, as well as by shoring up the base platform upon which it is built.
At the New York City launch of Office 365, Eron Kelly -- the Senior Director of Product Management for Microsoft Online Services and Office 365 -- shared with me some of the future directions for Microsoft's Google Apps competitor.
Microsoft officials said last year that Microsoft planned to add its Dynamics CRM Online offering to the Office 365 suite. Today, Kelly confirmed that the CRM Online addition is still on track to happen before the end of calendar 2011. Some of Microsoft's partners already are doing technical integration today between the company's CRM Online and its other hosted apps that are part of BPOS (the precursor to Office 365) and Office 365 itself. But Microsoft's plan remains to add CRM Online to the base suite of hosted applications -- either in some of the existing packages or in new unnamed packages.
"Today, there's still a separate provisioning, billing and commerce platform for Office 365 (and CRM Online)," Kelly explained. But later this year, the common underlying Online Systems Delivery Platform (OSDP) that Microsoft is building as the foundation for Office 365, should be in place.
This is how the OSDP fits into Office 365 (from a post I did last year on Office 365 futures. Click on the image below to enlarge.)
Kelly is one of the individuals who is working on this platform, as I've blogged previously. The OSDP is designed to provide a unified user experience, commerce, marketing and marketplace for Office 365's components -- which include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online (and later this year, CRM Online).
CRM Online isn't the only new offering coming to Microsoft's Office 365 stack and platform, however. Kelly today mentioned that Microsoft is also working to move its Windows Intune PC security and management service to the same OSDP base -- and, it sounded like to me, the Office 365 bundle. He didn't have a timeframe to share on the Windows Intune addition.
In the longer term, Microsoft's goal remains to move Office 365 and all of its piece parts to its Windows Azure cloud platform. Right now, the portal and commerce pieces of Office 365 are hosted on Azure, but elements like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online run on servers in Microsoft's datacenters throughout the world, and are not Azure based. (The common commerce platform, by the way, is the commerce engine that Microsoft used to power Xbox Live and other consumer-focused services, plus the more business-focused commerce-centric services, like Office 365.)
"Over time, the whole (Office 365 suite) will come to be based on Azure," Kelly said.
Kelly is moving to the Windows Azure team, where his mission will be to push the "one Microsoft" approach to services, by working on the common OSDP platform and integrating more of the company's services, like CRM Online and Intune, into the Microsoft hosted-app platform.