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Microsoft prices services for the email-poor

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Microsoft is targeting the email disenfranchised with a suite of cut-down email and online collaboration services priced at $3 per user a month.

The company has announced Exchange Online Deskless Worker and SharePoint Online Deskless Worker featuring calendar, Outlook Web Access Light to access corporate email, anti-virus, anti-spam, and search and read-only access to online SharePoint documents. The services were announced today at Microsoft's annual worldwide partner conference in Houston, Texas.

Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's business division, said the two sets of services mean employees currently not participating in corporate email or collaboration could do so for the price of a latte each month.

Elop clearly hasn't heard Starbucks is planning to close 600 stores and axe seven per cent of its workforce, as consumer growth has slowed.

For those not on the shop floor, those Microsoft calls "information workers", the company is making versions of its server-based software available as services for the price of a small coffee run: $15 per user per month. Microsoft is offering Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting as a suite or individually.

Microsoft will host these services with partners doing the selling. In return partners will get 12 per cent of the first-year's contract price and six per cent of the ongoing subscription fees. According to Elop, Coca-Cola and Nokia are among Microsoft customers who've made "commitments" to online collaboration

According to Elop, Microsoft is offering customers a choice of running client/server versions of its server software in addition to hosted services. Championing Microsoft's "software plus services" agenda, Elop dismissed the message from Salesforce.com among others pushing purely software as a service.

Addressing his first Microsoft World Wide Partner Summit, Elop said e had his "Silicon Valley blinkers on" the first time he heard of software-plus-services, as "it sounded like a rationalization". However, "customers are actually telling us they need diversity to resolve complexity of their business through choice".

Elop previously served as Juniper Networks' chief operating officer replaced Microsoft veteran Jeff Raikes in January as head of Microsoft's business division.

"There are self-proclaimed industry luminaries who will say software is dead, companies with a red logo, a circle with a slash through it," he said.

"This reminds me of my son riding his new bicycle who's going down the driveway and saying: 'Dad, look no hands' and there's a 15 foot hole there. There will be software on client devices."

Microsoft is launching the services to keep the combined offering of Salesforce.com and Google out of the enterprise. Microsoft expects customers will purchase a regular Exchange or SharePoint license for their information workers and while paying subscriptions for its other users.

SharePoint Online Deskless Worker will appeal to those who want a portal-based approach to delivering important work documents to all workers. Exchange Online Deskless Worker could suffer in comparison to things like Google mail and calendars though, as customers will be paying for deliberately limited functionality such as a one-day calendar view.

Microsoft said Exchange Online Deskless Worker is designed to let companies talk to employees, rather than have employees use their email as "a core tool". ®

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