Microsoft Announces Office 365

Microsoft has announced their latest cloud services offering, Office 365. Office 365 provides cloud versions of Microsoft Office, Sharepoint, and Exchange. The service will be free for a 30 day trial and then will cost $6 per month per user. When I first read about the service one of my first questions was, will it work with Windows Phone 7? One of frustrations I have had in the past is that Microsoft would announce new products and services that did not work with Windows Mobile. Even worse, often times Microsoft’s new products worked with competing phone platforms rather than Microsoft’s own, which to me has been an example of the lack of coordination between the different parts of Microsoft to insure interoperability between their products.

In my opinion the degree to which other parts of Microsoft make sure their products work with Windows Phone will be a measure of the importance of Windows Phone to Microsoft. If Windows Phone is as important as Office and Windows then Microsoft will make integration with Windows Phone a requirement before products are released. It took some digging, but I did find a page on the web site that says it will work with Windows Phone, as well as iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. While Microsoft did not provide any specifics, I expect that Office 365 will use Exchange ActiveSync, which is already available for all of the mobile platforms, to provide access to e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks in the hosted Exchange service.

Some may consider Office 365 to be Microsoft’s answer to Gmail and Google Docs, however while Gmail and Google Docs is for consumers, Office 365 is intended to be used by small businesses. Windows Phone will work out of the box with Windows Live services so it will synchronize with Hotmail email, calendar, and contacts, and you will also be able to synchronize Windows Phone with Gmail and Google Calendar, so you do not need Office 365. However, if you are a small business that wants to use Office 365 to host e-mail and Microsoft Office your employees can use it with their mobile phones.

If you are interested in trying Office 365 out, you can sign up for the beta now, while the final version will be available next year.