Attention, small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). Microsoft has created three new Office 365 plans just for you. The plans, expected to be launched October 1, are targeted at companies of up to 250 employees. The three are Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Essentials, and Office 365 Business Premium, and the applications are available on any device, including PC, Mac, iPad, Windows tablet or smartphone.
Office 365 Business provides the full suite of Office productivity applications -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher and Outlook -- plus a terabyte of cloud storage. Office 365 Business Essentials offers core cloud business services, including business class e-mail, calendaring, Office Online, online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing.
The Office 365 Business Premium version has everything that's included in the Office 365 Business and the Office 365 Essentials plans. Over time, the tech giant said, these three new plans will replace the existing plans for SMBs, which include Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business.
Pricing for the Office 365 Business Plan is $8.25/per user/per month, and a terabyte of storage is included.
Office 365 Business Premium is priced at $12.50/user/month, and it includes the services that were available through the current Midsize Business service, such as OneDrive for Business, e-mail, online meetings, sites for team collaboration and internal portals, and Yammer private social networking.
Office 365 Business Essentials is $5/user/month, the same price as Small Business, but with additional services like Yammer and support for Active Directory. Users can move their companies to different plans whenever they choose, or they can add other solutions, including Project, Visio, or Dynamics Online.
The company also said that, starting with the October launch, Small Business and Small Business Premium customers will have their seat caps raised from 25 to 300, while Midsize Business customers, already with a seat cap of 300, will have their user/month prices reduced by $2.50 per user.
As for when existing customers can move to the new plans, Microsoft's Kirk Gregersen wrote today on the company's blog that "most customers will have the ability to opt-in and move to the new plans after they launch."
However, he added, the company recommends "that most customers should simply continue using their current plans as they do today and move to the similar new plans at their first renewal after October 1, 2015."
The inclusion of Yammer in several of the business plans is being noted as an attempt by Microsoft to update its venerable applications to reflect a a sense of being social and collaborative.
The new plans follow Google's recent announcement that users of its Google Drive/Google Apps now have the ability to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files online. Previously, while Google Drive users could upload Office files, they needed to convert them first to Google's format before editing. A year ago, Google bought the Quickoffice suite, which was notable for enabling online editing of Microsoft Office files.