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Microsoft Office 365 review

Office heads for the cloud, but does it send productivity sky-high?

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Our Verdict

Office 365 is a simple and cost-effective way to get access to new features in desktop Office 2013, but Microsoft still has to prove it can offer meaningful improvements on a regular basis. Smaller companies will appreciate its reliability and interface, but there are powerful options for larger ones too.

For

  • New administration interface
  • New features on Sharepoint and Exchange Online
  • App model for Outlook add-ons
  • Simple and cost-effective plans

Against

  • Wait for upgrades for existing users
  • Does not take full advantage of Skype
  • Lacks integration with Yammer enterprise social networks.
  • This article is being regularly updated to reflect the ever evolving nature of Office 365.

The month of November 2014 saw four important Office 365 related announcements from Microsoft

- Lync will be rebranded as Skype for Business in a few months' time in what can be seen as a deliberate attempt by the company to unify its communication offerings. At one point, Microsoft had five communication, collaboration and sharing tools (six if you include Office 365) and it does make sense for them to consolidate. Surprisingly, back in April, Microsoft's Giovanni Mezgec, the GM for both Skype and Lync told TechRadar Pro that Microsoft would continue to be separate services, one for enterprise and the other for consumer. Clearly, something convinced Microsoft that this was not the right path to follow. It's worth nothing that Microsoft also plans to integrate Skype in Internet Explorer.

- Microsoft also released Office apps for iPad and iPhone for free with a preview for Office apps for Android coming up. You will need to have an Office 365 subscription to make the most out of it but that's not compulsory. Microsoft confirmed that the apps would still offer core Office editing experiences, similar to what you get when using Office.com online, with more advanced ones available to premium users. Embracing that strategy will allow Microsoft to stem the flow of users embracing Google Apps by providing them with a reasonable, functional alternative.

- Another big announcement was a new Work and Play bundle that offers Office 365 Home, Skype Unlimited World+Wifi, Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Music Pass for $199, rather than its suggested retail price of $450. Oddly enough, Microsoft chose to make it available in the US in its stores only and to end the promotion early January. Although the deal is clearly geared at a consumer audience, expect Microsoft to try more of those cross-platform promotions to increase the number of subscriptions.

- The Redmond-based company also penned a strategic partnership with popular online cloud storage specialist, Dropbox, which will allow more than 35 billion Office documents to be edited by Office users from within the Dropbox mobile app. Microsoft's Onedrive competes with Dropbox but it is nowhere near in terms of adoption. Dropbox reached more than 300 million users in May 2014, just six months after it hit the 200 million user mark.

At the beginning of October 2014, Microsoft bundled its Dynamics CRM Online and Power BI offerings with Office 365, delivering a package called Microsoft Dynamics Sales Productivity. The new package includes Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Professional, Power BI for Office 365 and Office 365 Enterprise E3 for £42.79 ($65 in the US, not available yet in Australia).

The rate card price of the former stands at £40.50 per month per user while that of Power BI tops £13 PMPO and Office Enterprise E3 costs £14.70 PMPO. So you're looking at a saving of more than 37% (or roughly buy Dynamics CRM Online Professional and get Power BI and Enterprise E3 for - almost - free). Some serious competition to Salesforce.

Late in the same month, Microsoft announced that OneDrive would offer unlimited storage for anyone using Office 365. It already allows users to upload 10GB files (that's more than two DVDs worth of content) at a time.

That even includes Office 365 Personal, the cheapest Office subscription at $6.99 per month ($69.99 for a year or as little as £46 in the UK), Home and University customers. Business customers will get that update early next year and so should students that have enrolled on the free Office 365 for Students (currently available for any student aged 13 or above).

The rest of the review is on the next page