Microsoft to beef up its entry-level Office 365 offering

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.

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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

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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6 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft to beef up its entry-level Office 365 offering

    Check your years mentioned in the article, MJ. Last quarterly update was 2010?
    jglopic
  • Close but no cigar?

    Nice to see some progress on 365 but I'm not sure its enough yet. I would have preferred a much higher email storage capacity and some mention of the carbon footprint but I guess this will feature more in future releases.

    http://www.pirantech.co.uk
    Pirantech
    • RE: Microsoft to beef up its entry-level Office 365 offering

      @Pirantech Most Office365 customers are signing up for one of the E plans for their users. Most of these plans provide 25GB per mailbox by default. Administrators can choose to assign smaller/larger mailboxes on a per user basis should they wish.

      Frankly, if you have a mailbox that's much larger than 20GB, you should probably reconsider your retention and archiving policies.
      bitcrazed
  • This is the K plan

    ...but it isn't designed for small businesses.<br><br>The K plan is featured under the enterprise service for users on shared computers or mobile devices only.<br><br>I wouldn't consider the K plan to be considered as an alternate to Google Apps since the K plan is intentionally limited to meet the low requirements of those secondary users. The P plan is the lowest that I would consider 'feature-complete'. It's also my understanding that K plans are only allowed for customers that sign up for an E plan, and are considered sub-accounts. P plan customers can't mix and match with E plans, so they can't subscribe to K plans. If they got rid of the E plan requirement and allowed you to mix and match, then I would consider K plans as the primary account option for the low-end.<br><br>I was talking to a client today about Microsoft's lack of development with BCM. The Team Blog site hasn't been updated since they released it for free in September of 2010.<br><br>There are no first-party mobile client apps for BCM, and nothing in the way of cloud-hosted solutions. You still need a PC running Outlook with either local or network-shared SQL Express database.<br><br>There is a need for a lite-CRM for small businesses, and Dynamics CRM is too expensive and too bulky for that market. Mobile users need to be able to connect to the database too.<br><br>I was hoping that Microsoft would start offering support of BCM through Office 365 and modify OWA to support the database connections. I'm frankly quite surprised by how much this program is overlooked.
    Joe_Raby
    • BCM and CRM lite

      Good, points, Joe. They did add some new BCS (not M) stuff in the latest batch of Office 365 updates -- I think.

      http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-office-365-and-sql-azure-updates-whats-on-tap/10991

      MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Dunno about BCS....here's my solution though:

        @Mary Jo Foley

        If a client was looking for a SQL Express service, there are plenty of web-hosting providers that offer SQL Express databases very inexpensively. I found a few that were advertised on the ASP.Net pages for $1-5/mth and included unlimited SQL Server databases. I'm not sure how much security could be provided, but considering that these databases could be running back end services for ecommerce shopping, I'm betting that it would have to be pretty well locked down.

        If a webhost offers a vanity domain on a specific port, some software applications could still work with it, given that user permissions are set up properly on the remote host. Windows Azure might be Microsoft's preferred method for something like this, but it is extremely cost prohibitive for a small business. Webhosts don't charge per transaction, and you always get some kind of included preset bandwidth, unlike SQL Azure, so they might be a better option.

        I haven't tried this with BCM yet, but it's something I've been looking at for a while now.

        The issues I have with BCM are that they haven't expanded the client base beyond Outlook on the desktop. CRM is just barely making its way onto the cloud too, but mobile apps still aren't available. BCM requires Outlook, but OWA doesn't provide the UI for it. The only way to do Outlook+BCM via the cloud is maybe through RemoteApp or some other application virtualization method, but that's less than ideal. I really hope the next version of Exchange Server (and ActiveSync) allows syncing of non-Exchange-mailbox data, specifically from additional third-party plug-in applications that would typically only reside on desktop computers. If it was present in ActiveSync, then any client claiming to support ActiveSync could work with the data. It would have to be data that is structured in a uniform way though. BCM is mostly just contact information, so how hard could it be for a client to support instructions to build new datatypes based on fields and values specified by the plug-in architecture? BCM also supports documents, but that could be accessed by using pseudo-messages with attachments. I don't see why this isn't being done now.
        Joe_Raby