Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

Summary: Here's a guide to the various plans and price points for Office 365, Microsoft's hosted server application bundle that will launch in mid-2011.


Microsoft is expected to "turn on" its Office 365 cloud platform in June this year. Thousands of customers and partners have been beta testing the Microsoft-hosted Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online suite for the past few months.

Microsoft officials have shared a number of details about the coming successor to its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Live@edu offering and Office Live Small Business products. But so far, the Redmondians haven't really gone granular with SKU and pricing details for Office 365 (beyond the Office 365 for Education SKU, information about which Microsoft shared in January 2011).

Office 365 isn't a one-size-fits-all offering. There are a lot of different plans at a variety of prices. There is a P Plan for small/mid-size business (SMB) users. There are two K Plans for "kiosk workers" (formerly known, in Microsoft parlance as "deskless workers"). There are four E Plans for information workers. Additionally, Office 365 users can opt to add the Office 2010 Professional Plus software and pay for it on a per-month, subscription basis.

I've been asking Microsoft for a couple of months for details on the various Office 365 SKUs. Finally, this week, the Softies came through. With Microsoft's help, I've distilled the Office 365 offerings down to six slides, which, in my opinion, makes things a little less complex and more understandable.

Slide Show: Microsoft Office 365: Is there a plan and pricepoint that's right for you?

(The Directions on Microsoft folks recently did a Webcast to help users wade through the Office 365 SKUs and plans, as well. )

In short, the P Plan is aimed at price-sensitive SMB users who may be thinking about going Google, as one Microsoft partner, who requested anonymity, explained to me. The E Plans are aimed at enterprise users -- both the current BPOS customers whom Microsoft is encouraging to move to Office 365, as well as new cloud customers. K Plans are also aimed at enterprise users, but those who don't need all the bells and whistles provided by the E Plans.

Microsoft also has updated its Enterprise Agreement licensing terms to offer its volume licensing users what is known as a User Subscription License.

"In essence Microsoft with the new agreements is granting customers maximum flexibility to switch from the traditional Enterprise Agreement which has predominantly been based around the On-premise software deployment paradigm to any variety of none, some, most, or all running via  Online Services or running on premise," explained the aforementioned partner.

Customers get the right to switch from a standard EA to an EA for Online Services, without having to pay for it until the first anniversary date of their Enterprise Agreements. This could allow some custoemrs to get months of Office 365 usage without having to pay for it until their EAs come due.

Microsoft's not always known for being flexible in terms of its licensing options -- or fast to react to the competition. But Microsoft really needs Office 365 to take hold with its customers and partners if it plans to make its cloud push successful. While there definitely are a lot of moving parts with Office 365's SKUs and pricing plans, complexity means choice, in this case.

More Office 365 coverage:

Ten More Tidbits About Microsoft's Office 365 Play

Sorry, Folks: Office 365 Is Not Office in the Cloud

Microsoft Details Packaging, Pricing for Office 365 for Education

A Look at Office 365 (Screen Shots)

The Road to Office 365: The Future

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft, Software


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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  • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

    My problem with using the MS online office applications is that they're a bit too big to really work properly as web-based apps. Google Docs works because they strip out a lot of the functionality found in MS Office, their spreadsheet software for example is laughable compared to Excel.

    In doing this though, they've created a version that does run relatively smoothly in a browser. Kudos to MS for trying to make the desktop and cloud environments as similar as possible, but the technology isn't there for them to do it well as yet.
    • Not quite...

      @OffsideInVancouver Hey OffsideInVancouver...

      a.) Have you used It is every bit as light if not lighter plus it maintains fidelity. Not quite sure what you are talking about.

      b.) Office Web Apps actually have stripped down functionality - again see point a.)

      c.) Why make comments about stuff you have haven't tried before?

      Jessie in Vancity
      • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices


        Chill out, I thought Canadians were supposed to be friendly?

        I have used and the Office Docs on Skydrive, as my main email address is a Hotmail acccount. The house I'm renting here has a blisteringly fast internet connection, my laptop is new in September and I typically use Chrome as my default browser, although since reading your post I have also tested their online offerings in IE9.

        Fact remains, they are sluggish. This is to be expected, I believe online Excel contains more lines of code than any other application on the internet (I certainly remember something to this effect being mentioned when it first launched).

        So again, kudos to MS for trying but the technology isn't there yet to give the smoothness of experience. Google, for all their spyware-infested faults, have done this better.
    • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

      According to the slides that MJF links to, you get Office Pro Plus full version for desk based workers as well as the web version.
      • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices


        I know, my point is that they have overextended themselves on their web-offerings at the moment. Given time I'm sure the technology will catch up with what they're trying to do but at the moment Google beats them for online stuff, even if it is laughably inadequate compared to even basic desktop MS Office.
    • Well...maybe yes maybe no, but thats not the issue.

      First off, it really is a bit pointless to just say "the technology isn't there for them to do it well as yet", without giving some kind of explanation how you came to that conclusion. Think about that. Who knows; you just might be right, but seriously, its a strong statement and you give no explanation for how you claim to know this to be a fact.

      Further, because of the fact that you don't seem to qualify your position at all, you make it sound pretty black and white.

      I see no way around it but to interpret what your saying is that MS online office applications are just too slow and kludgey to have any reasonable purpose for choosing them over Google Docs, even though "Google Docs works because they strip out a lot of the functionality found in MS Office, their spreadsheet software for example is laughable compared to Excel". Again, its kind of a harsh conclusion to say something is so slow its not as good as faster crap.

      And all that without offering up a shred of evidence. Again, who knows, maybe your right, but when you offer up such strong statement as if it were fact, some people think its reasonable for you to explain how you came to this conclusion.
  • Where is my plan equivalent to Google Apps FREE plan

    Meh, MS didn't get their online strategy properly I think. Everywhere they fail to understand for long time, and then they do catchup game.

    1) WinMo - They didn't understood for 4 yrs, and doing catchup now with WP7

    2) Azure - They didn't understood since it's introduction, even now also they don't understand, but, they're trying to improve that by providing 750hrs free option, 30day pass, etc. Still it's not like Amazon 750hr/mth free always pay if it goes beyond that. So, MS here too didn't get it properly. They're not even ready to provide this free option for developers. Even provides a Free option.

    3) Now, Office365. Google Apps is FREE with 50 GB space, n-number of mails, n-number of domains can be configured, any size of Google docs, n-number of websites can be configured, etc. All upto we reach 50GB. It's all FREE. I agree MS Office is the leader, but, not online.

    4) CRM, it's one poor guy. Even SAP and Oracle didn't quite understood well. How come MS will understand. Hence, we've winning the hearts and minds of SOHO and even big customers.

    5) I hope they understand how online works for Windows atleast, which is their bread and butter, before Google ChomeOS takes over the world.

    6) Bing - Ok, they finally understood the game.
    • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

      1. Windows Phone - it competes - it's missing some capabilities no doubt but it has things others don't - namely Xbox Live, Office, Zune, and a unique UI

      2.) Ever seen System Center with Azure integration capability? Moving physical to virtual and virtual to physical and managing through one unified console. Free is great, however, isn't the time and energy to manage an environment worth more than the cost of free?

      3.) Office 365 cost because it's better:
      - Office 365 offers significantly better experience, capabilities, and integration with offline and online worlds
      - GAP isn't necessarily free - it costs you privacy - Google indefinitely holds and retains all files you upload to the service
      - Try working with GAP and Outlook? You can't unless you pay

      - CRM - Microsoft offering is less expensive and provides more capabilities... again with integration which is significantly better

      - ChromeOS takes over the world? I won't even respond to this...
  • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

    Great blog, Mary Jo! Thanks for going through what you know now about the Office 365 cloud platform. I feel that this is definitely a catch-up for Microsoft, and hopefully they will work out a program that fits every type of business. A variety of different plans and prices would be helpful for different types of companies. Keep us updated on Office 365!
    TuneUp Utilities
  • Office 365 will be a Google Apps killer for business

    Office365 is to Google Apps is what Xbox360 is to Pong.
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

      [i]Office365 is to Google Apps is what Xbox360 is to Pong.[/i]

      Which equals Bloatware 101
  • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

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  • RE: Microsoft's Office 365: A guide to the coming plans and prices

    The cloud service is excellent. Office 365 comes in $5(approx.) price which helps common user to use the service. The plans are really competitive to Apple iCloud service and the beta service which was earlier free also helped us to try its features. Here is a similar article which talks the same.