Microsoft has announced the launch of a public beta of its new cloud-based Office 365 suite, which is based on its desktop product, Microsoft Office. It comprises the free Office Web Apps service, which includes cut-down versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, with Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. These will give users access to Outlook-style email, calendar and contacts, plus tools for building websites and collaborating online through instant messaging, video conferencing and desktop sharing tools, which will also work with Windows Live Messenger users.
The service, which is free while in beta, will cost small businesses $6 per user per month. Access will be through web browsers on PC and Mac, allowing users to access the service from any internet-enabled computer, and access will also be possible through smartphones including Android, Windows Mobile and iPhone.