Singapore gets Microsoft hosted suite

Country is first in Asia to get Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, already launched in U.S. and Europe, at monthly fee of US$10 per seat.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The country next week will be the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to get Microsoft's hosted Exchange, Sharepoint and Office Communications Server products, known collectively as its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, said in a conference call Tuesday the software giant will be making the hosted suite available to 15 additional countries. These include Singapore on Nov. 9, followed by trials in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and "eventually" India, he said.

Officially released in April this year across other regions including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, BPOS will also see its prices cut by a third, from US$15 to US$10 per seat per month, Elop said.

Balz Wyss, Microsoft's Asia-Pacific senior director of unified communications and SaaS (software-as-a-service), told ZDNet Asia in a follow-up call that enterprises can also choose to subscribe to individual products within the suite. The slim, browser-only version of hosted Exchange e-mail would cost US$2 per seat, per month, and Sharepoint at US$3 per seat, per month, he said.

Apart from the price cuts, e-mail inboxes will also be upgraded from 5GB to 25GB per user, Elop said. He noted that the boost to price-points and services were the result of enhancements made to the company's cloud infrastructure.

This expansion has provided increasing economies of scale, allowing Microsoft to offer the service enhancements, he said, adding that the announcements were "not a competitive response to Google".

Asked about the threat from Google Apps, Elop said: "A number of Google's claims aren't holding up."

The Microsoft executive referred to Google Apps customers such as the Washington D.C. government and Motorola's mobile unit, which he said have since sidelined their Google Apps projects because they could not move users away from the "primary use of Microsoft's [products]".

As a result, their cloud projects based on Google Apps have not provided cost reductions but incremental costs, he said.

Aiming for SMEs
Wyss said Microsoft hopes the online suite will help reach the small and midsize business (SMB) market more effectively.

He said the delays in rolling out BPOS to other countries in the region was a result of pending approval from regulators in the respective countries.

While Microsoft has focused on markets with broadband penetration, there are emerging economies that could potentially yield returns equivalent to that of developed markets, he said.

For instance, Indonesia's networking infrastructure is not as robust as Singapore's, but the addressable volumes of "deskless" workers can increase Indonesia's lower ARPUs (average revenues per user) to equal that of Singapore's, said Wyss.

The reliability of available networking infrastructure was also a consideration in deciding which countries to debut its product, he said, adding that speed is not crucial--a basic broadband connection would suffice for apps to run well.

Microsoft's corporate vice president, Allison Watson, told ZDNet Asia in a previous interview Asia was expected to embrace BPOS faster than the United States, noting that Asian users were more accustomed to a "digitally-connected environment".

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