The launch of Microsoft's cloud-based productivity suite Office 365 has been welcomed by the software giant's channel partners.
The product suite, which is being ushered in to replace Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), was launched in 40 countries yesterday.
It provides subscribers with online access to the latest versions of Microsoft Office, Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync.
At the Office 365 launch event in London, Microsoft's UK managing director Gordon Frazer said the vendor had been heartened by the channel's response to the product.
"We have had over 200,000 organisations across the globe on the beta programme, which has been very exciting," he added.
Tim Wallis, chief executive of Microsoft Gold Partner Content and Code, said his firm has 5,000 customers signed up to BPOS, but 100,000 wanting to move across to Office 365.
"The key thing for the channel is that it should increase sales velocity because you can set this up in days, rather than months [compared to the on-premises version], which is a very appealing proposition for customers," he explained.
The new release should also put paid to comparisons between Microsoft's cloud proposition and Google Apps, he added.
"A lot of the Google stuff is very good, but it is very basic," said Wallis. "Gmail, for example, is not really an enterprise-standard email system."
Mark Herbert, business development director at Microsoft BPOS Syndication Partner intY, said Office 365 makes Google's cloud portfolio look "Fisher Price in comparison".
"The release date for Office 365 has been rather fluid, so we are glad it has finally been released," he added. "Especially as there are a lot of people using Microsoft Office 2003 who want to upgrade to the newest version, but cannot afford the boxed product."
However, Steven Hennessey, sales manager at Microsoft Gold Partner Computerworld Business Solutions, fears the product could pose business continuity problems for some SMEs.
"If you are a small business and your broadband connection fails, your staff lose access to email and the internet, but can still access documents and work," he explained.
"If they are using Office 365 and that happens, the problems could potentially be a lot bigger because of how reliant their business processes are on the cloud."
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