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Microsoft rolls out online Exchange and Sharepoint for the US

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Microsoft added another rung to its online rope ladder yesterday with the general release of its web-based Sharepoint and Exchange products aimed at business customers in the US.

Sharepoint Online and Exchange Online had been available in beta since early March as part of Microsoft’s long-winded hosted collaboration effort.

The company has attempted to steal a march on Google for much of the year. But its “software plus services” strategy, which has been on the firm’s agenda for the best part of a decade in one form or another, has yet to really pay off.

Redmond will doubtless hope that yesterday’s online server and email release might be a step in the right direction, but it’s hardly likely to ambush Google’s interweb empire, especially seeing as it’s only available to US business customers for now.

Stateside companies of all sizes can get their mitts on Sharepoint Online and Exchange Online by dishing out from $3 to $15 per user per month, depending on an organisation’s product requirements.

Since the beta landed in March, MS has signed up about half a million subs from firms such as Fair Issac Corp, Pitney Bowes and Healthcare Solutions LLC.

Partners have expressed concerns about Microsoft’s decision to throw cash at data centres and jack up its online offering. Channel players are worried they could be left out in the cold with the hosted software they already sell. Hosted Exchange is offered by many resellers.

MS tried to steady their nerves by pointing out that partners could also start selling the online service.

“Since July 2008, more than 1,500 companies have enrolled in the Microsoft Partner Program for Microsoft Online Services, with 100 more joining every week,” said Redmond.

“These companies are realising a wide range of revenue opportunity that spans reselling, migration, customisation, consulting, training, support and application development, and integration services.”

The UK launch of Sharepoint Online and Exchange Online is expected early next year. ®

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