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Microsoft expands hosted services waistline

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Microsoft has confirmed that its online services package for businesses will touch down in Europe, Japan and New Zealand next month.

The company said that trial versions of Microsoft’s biz software for email, collaboration and online meetings would be made available in 19 countries, including Finland, Italy, Germany, France, Sweden and Blighty come April.

Microsoft is offering a 38 per cent discount to businesses that sign up to the full package, which will set firms back €12.78 (£10.04) per user, per month (those are Microsoft's exchange rates). It includes access to Exchange and SharePoint, as well as Office Communications Server for instant-messaging and Office Live Meeting too.

Meanwhile, businesses that aren’t currently using corporate email and collaboration systems will be offered a lightweight package of the apps, which run on servers based in MS data farms that are pumped to users online and sold on a subscription basis.

The software giant also plans to dish up online services for what it described as “deskless workers”, who don’t have regular access to corporate email. It will come loaded with access to Exchange and SharePoint online for €2.56 (£2.01) per user, per month.

Microsoft began punting its web-based Sharepoint and Exchange products to companies in the US last November as part of its 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.

Just last month Google inked a deal with IT resellers to sell the web kingpin’s online applications to biz customers.

From the end of March authorised resellers will be able to flog, customise and support premium versions of Google Apps. ®

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