Microsoft’s cloud shift: BPOS out, Office 365 in

Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, the name that many partners loved to hate, is no more.

The software giant Tuesday officially gave the unclear and unloved name the heave-ho, taking its hosted SharePoint and Exchange services, adding in a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office and its Lync Online instant messaging client and packaging them together into Office 365.

The new online suite is in beta today with “a few thousand organizations and 13 countries and regions around the world,” and is slated to go worldwide sometime next year. The company said Office 365 would start at $6 per user per month, with configurations up to $27 per user per month.

The “all-in” cloud theme was certainly the big one at this year’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., and that move to the cloud certainly continues and probably accelerates with the 365 launch.

Some thoughts on the rebrand:

  • BPOS was an unpopular name because it was lengthy and generic, taking a long time to say very little about what it actually did. Does the Office 365 brand do a better job of communicating the value proposition of Microsoft-hosted business apps, or does it just reflect the worst nightmare of overtasked knowledge workers everywhere?
  • To make the transition successful, Microsoft’s got to get the support right. BPOS has seen sporadic downtime earlier this year and several times in recent months, leading to the launch of a dashboard where customers can keep an eye on the health of their service.  To this point, Chris Capossela, head of Microsoft’s Information Worker product management group, said the company had “tens of thousands of engineers” dedicated to the new platform and that “Office 365 is the biggest commitment we’ve made to customers and partners.”
  • Capossela said the company sees the launch as “a very good opportunity” for the company to “expand our reach in the small business space.” Particularly, by taking the minimum number of seats required down to one, the company is reaching out to independent professionals and other micro-businesses, particularly with SharePoint and Lync, which have not really become major factors in the small-s part of SMB.
  • Also moving to the cloud is the full Office Professional Plus suite, including Outlook, Publisher, Access, Communicator, Infopath and Sharepoint Workspace. Office Professional Plus Online will carry with it a $24 (U.S.) price tag.
  • In an interesting bit of timing, the introduction of Office 365 comes just 24 hours after the sudden announcement that Ray Ozzie, chief software architect and technological spearhead of Microsoft’s move to the cloud, is leaving the company with no particular place to go.
  • The company already has plans to expand Office 365, with Dynamics CRM Online slated to join the family “later next year.” It also intends an education-focused version of the Office Suite, similar to the specially licensed Student and Teacher editions of its traditional desktop Office suite.

Here are a few links with more on the BPOS rebrand and reactions from around the Web:

What do you think of the BPOS rebrand? What does Microsoft have to do to make selling Office 365 attractive to you? Buzz back in the comments below and let us know what’s on your mind.

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