Software behemoth Microsoft yesterday gave the first demonstration of its online Office suite which is due for release in early 2010.
The move comes after Google launched a set of online applications last year and the recent launch of IBM’s Lotus Symphony set of free online services. Microsoft have stressed that the launch is not a reactive move but was fuelled by developments in browser technology progressing to a level where online applications could be supported.
Consumers will be able to access Microsoft's online applications free of charge while businesses will have to pay a licensing fee or subscription. Microsoft claimed such charges will be in line with rivals' offerings; Google charges firms $50 per user per year. The online launch is expected to coincide with that of the next version of Office and Windows 7, which will both be launched in the early months of 2010.
Microsoft has also unveiled the findings of a global survey of small businesses' attitudes towards IT. 43 per cent claimed they lacked the resources to manage their IT and would benefit from using hosted services. Despite this, prior to being asked, just 37 per cent were aware that subscribing to a hosted offering was an option for their business.
The survey also found three fifths of small firms worldwide rated IT as either critical or very important to their business. 74 per cent of UK companies felt they would benefit from more sophisticated IT while 41 per cent had sought advice from a friend when setting up their business. 55 per cent of UK firms use IT to manage customer information, with 18 per cent using a CRM application. 35 per cent use consumer webmail with 64 per cent splashing out on a branded email domain.
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