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Microsoft launches Office 365 public beta

Microsoft today announced the launch of the public beta of Office 365. Office 365 has been in limited beta since October and is now available in 38 countries and 17 languages.

Office 365 offers access to Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online. Microsoft sees Office 365 as being a big boost for small businesses: “We’ve been in the cloud for years supporting large enterprises such as Shell and DuPont, but Office 365 takes that same technology power and delivers it to small businesses,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president, Microsoft Office Division. “More than 70 percent of the people who signed up for the limited beta were small businesses, so it clearly strikes a chord.”

Five small businesses will also have a chance to win access to Office 365 for a year by participating in the Office 365: Ready for Work contest. Interested businesses can enter by sharing their stories on Facebook and the winners will be chosen by community voting.

Microsoft also announced the launch of Office 365 Marketplace which will provide apps and services to extend the functionality of Office 365. The launch brings over 100 apps and 400 professional services to users.

With Google dominating online productivity services for the past few years, Microsoft’s efforts with Office 365 aims to claw back some of that lost market share by delivering services and compatibility that users are familiar with in the native versions of Office. By providing an online and always-up-date-version of Office, Office 365 should continue a trend in productivity that sees users and businesses relying more on cloud services to provide greater flexibility and team collaboration.

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