Microsoft to launch online SharePoint, Exchange on Monday

Microsoft may be set to offer some of its hosted business-productivity services earlier than the company expected.

Microsoft on Monday will release the first of several of its hosted business-productivity services.

The company will launch Exchange Online and SharePoint Online at an event in San Francisco, according to an e-mail from its public relations firm. A spokeswoman from the agency confirmed that the services will be available Monday.

Exchange Online, a hosted version of Microsoft's messaging software, and SharePoint Online, a hosted collaboration application, are part of the Microsoft Online Services suite but also are available as individual services.

In addition to Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, the full suite includes Office Communications Online, a hosted unified-communications offering, and Office Live Meeting, a hosted Web-conferencing application. The subscription price for the suite, which Microsoft unveiled in July, is US$15 per user, per month.

Individually, Microsoft will be selling hosted Exchange Online for $10 per user, per month; SharePoint Online for US$7.25 per user, per month; Office Communications Online for US$2.50 per user, per month; and Office Live Meeting Online for US$4.50 per user, per month, the company said.

Microsoft has said it will release Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting Online as individual services early next year.

Microsoft has slowly been rolling out hosted versions of its business software as part of its move to embrace Web-based services and move away from its software legacy. However, it is doing this in a gradual way, calling its strategy "software-plus-services" to show that it will still give customers a choice between running software in their own IT networks, having Microsoft host it for them, or some combination of both.

Microsoft also is allowing business partners to resell and host its business software for their customers. However, by entering the market with its own hosted suite, Microsoft also is competing with them, which has irked some longtime partners.

In the meantime, Microsoft continues to expand its hosted-services strategy. Two weeks ago at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft unveiled Azure, a hosted application-development environment that eventually will be the framework for all of its own hosted services.

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