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Microsoft issues first upgrade to Office 365

SkyDrive updated, support for Lync and OS X Lion added

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Microsoft has issued its first update to the Office 365 cloud portfolio, adding support for the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango release and Apple’s OS X Lion operating system, and updating storage and sharing services.

The update contains over 30 new features (although some of these stretch the term "new"), including major revisions to SharePoint and SkyDrive integration and better administrative control, such as allowing admins to reset passwords via SMS messages. Microsoft also extended the service to 22 new countries, including South Africa, Taiwan, and the Baltic states.

“Today’s news illustrates how we’re executing like never before in the cloud with more customers, capabilities and commitment than anyone in the industry. All this while others search for their focus,” said Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Office Division in a slightly cheeky statement that makes it clear that Microsoft will continue taking the fight to Google.

Office 365 now supports OS X Lion, with the integration of the Lync messaging platform and a unified download page for Apple users. Those using Windows Mango can also now link into Office 365 apps from their handsets.

SharePoint support has been beefed up, with Windows LiveID support added to allow outside parties to share information using Partner Access Licenses (PALs), 1,000 of which have been made available for use until the next update. External data can be used in SharePoint using Business Connectivity Services, and support for IE9 and Chrome has also been added.

SkyDrive, Microsoft’s storage and sharing system, has also been revised to simplify file management and sharing. SkyDrive users now have single-click sharing, and HTML 5 support has been added for dragging and dropping files. The software now also includes full PDF support and the ability to handle RAW image files.

Redmond used the update to release new figures showing who is using its cloud apps. The company claims Office 365 is a hit with smaller firms (employing less than 50 people), who make up 90 per cent of its user base. The three most common industries using the platform are professional services, consumer goods, and the retail sector

“We are seeing really positive momentum for Office 365. Customers are adopting Office 365 eight times faster than our previous service, and the solution is on track to become one of our fastest-growing offers in Microsoft history,” said Kurt DelBene, president of the Office Division. ®

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