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Microsoft has dangled fresh licences for Office 365 - its subscription-based software suite - and beefed up its data-analysis tools to woo more business customers.

Opening its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, Texas, Microsoft announced something it's called “upgrade SKUs” that will let IT bosses running on-premises Office move to cloud-hosted Office 365.

Janet Gibbons - Redmond's director of partner strategy and programmes for small, mid-market partners and solutions - told The Reg customers could “cost effectively” take existing on-premises investments in Office and convert them into a subscription cloud service using this “step up SKU”.

She did not have any pricing information to hand nor did she say when the SKUs would be released. And just how users will carry over their Office licences in the "upgrade" was not explained. However, bear in mind that it took Microsoft six months to fill out the details of its SKU upgrades announced at WPC 2012, so a dearth of detail at this year's partner shindig is to be expected at this stage.

Meanwhile, the software giant is also reported, here and here, to have announced Office 365 “transition SKUs” to make it easier for customers to switch between different Office 365 subscription tiers.

Microsoft does not let you move between the payment plans for small and midsize business and the enterprise giants; the latter simply offers “better” features – for more money, naturally.

The transition SKUs were announced by Microsoft’s partner group vice-president Jon Roskill at this year's WPC. Again, no further details were announced by Roskill.

Microsoft also used the conference to unveil a public preview of Power Business Intelligence for Office 365, a set of visual data-analysis tools involving Excel and other software in the suite. The tool introduces Power Query and Power Map, previously known as Data Explorer and GeoFlow, to find and merge data and to build 3D geospatial diagrams and illustrations in Excel.

Power BI for Office 365 will feature a data-management gateway to connect on-premises data sources, dedicated workspaces for BI projects called BI Sites, the ability to use sites through the browser in HTML5 or via Windows 8, Surface RT and Apple iPad, and the ability to build interactive tables, charts and graphs.

The tool will be released this summer, Microsoft confirmed here. ®

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