Following limited access since late 2010, Microsoft have opened up the Office 365 beta on to a widespread global audience. To many Office 365 is a new product – but for a few million already running Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Office Live Small Business, and Live@edu – it is a successor to those products.

Office 365 is a cloud offering delivering a bundle of the latest versions of Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Lync, and Microsoft Office via the Internet. And as I reported last year, Microsoft have dramatically reduced pricing on their cloud offerings compared with the point they started at. It is understood that Office 365 pricing will be even more compelling that current BPOS pricing in most cases.

Monthly subscription prices will start at US$6 per user with local pricing varying by region (approx $9 is anticipated starting point in NZ). Expect higher pricing (up to $US25) for enterprise versions – some of which include the full version of Microsoft Office for local installation on a PC or Laptop. It is also likely there will be a small discount available for charitable/not-for-profit organisations.

In initial testing I have been extremely impressed with Office 365 – a dramatic difference to other online suites such as Zoho Office Suite and Google Apps. I’ll feed back more as I put it through it paces a little more.

Follow @Office365NZ on Twitter for New Zealand specific news about Office 365.