Earlier this week Microsoft announced the launch of Microsoft Office 365. The package allows customers to combine Office 2010 Pro Plus, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Web Apps and the recently renamed Lync video-conferencing software for delivery in the cloud.

These are joined together in a single package that will be sold on a SaaS model when it arrives next year.

“We are at a pivot point in the adoption of cloud services,” said Kurt DelBene, president of Microsoft’s Office division.

The significance of this announcement is that it helps Microsoft compete even harder with Google (and IBM) in the office productivity sector. Despite Microsoft currently dominating the sector, it may not be guaranteed in the cloud market, app stores and mobile internet devices

Microsoft’s message seems to hint that they are directly targeting Google Apps, the suite of online products that have been increasingly approaching in Microsoft’s market. In a stab at competition Capossela says ‘We can differentiate from our competition, particularly those coming from the consumer space, by making sure our servers are far more reliable’.

Office 365 won’t be widely available until next year, but Microsoft is about to start a limited beta program in 13 different countries.

Alongside Microsoft’s announcement, Access Technology Group, the accounting software provider has also announced their first steps into the SaaS market. Access will allow its clients to move into the Cloud in an evolutionary manner, beginning with document management and HR solutions that integrate with the Access on-premise offerings.

Matt Holmes, Liquid’s MD, who is Chair of the BASDA (Business Application Software Developers Association) Special Interests Group commented on the cloud move.

‘If this isn’t an indication that cloud is the way forward and that in the near future all our commonly-used IT systems will be in the cloud, then nothing is! Microsoft and other big players are taking this seriously and putting the majority of their development into cloud-based models. The benefits, particularly for small businesses, are indisputable – small companies can pay a low-cost monthly subscription to access all the latest high-end technology that would normally have only been accessible to large companies with their own IT infrastructure.’

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