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Microsoft Expands Online Services Globally

Microsoft has expanded its online services to 19 countries, the company announced Monday. In addition, Microsoft plans to roll out two new online offerings in April.

One of the new offerings will be Microsoft Office Communications Online, which will provide "instant messaging and presence" within organizations. Priced at $2.50 per user per month, the service integrates with Microsoft Office applications. Organizations need to have the Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 client, which comes with Office Pro Plus, to use the service.

Organizations that need federation service -- in which they connect their internal IM system with a disparate IM system outside the organization -- can get it through an option. Microsoft describes the option, without pricing information, in its Microsoft Office Communications Online data sheet (PDF). The online services are generally described here.

The other new service offering is called Deskless Worker Suite, which is designed to provide e-mail and collaboration solutions for so-called "occasional users." This service is priced at about $3.22 per month per user.

Microsoft also offers a bundled package called Business Productivity Online Standard Suite that will include Office Communications Online. The suite also has Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Office Live Meeting services. The bundled package costs $15 per month per user, and it takes a minimum of five seats to initiate the service.

Microsoft sells its services in packages or separately. The company uses its server network to host the services, which are then sold by its partners. Microsoft's press materials claim that the company "has sold more than a half-a-million seats for Microsoft Online Services" as of November, which is when the company publicly launched Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.

Microsoft has more than 1,500 partners since July that are selling its online services, according to press materials.

To underscore its service offering, Microsoft announced that GlaxoSmithKline will deploy the Business Productivity Online Suite for 100,000 employees around the world.

Ingo Elfering, vice president of IT strategy at the pharmaceutical company, explained the rationale for the move to online services. The online services cut costs by "roughly 30 percent," he claimed in a blog post. Microsoft's online services replace a GlaxoSmithKline customized setup that used applications reaching the end of their service lifecycles, according to Elfering.

Microsoft now offers Exchange Online and SharePoint Online in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The two new services will also be offered in those countries in April.

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