NEW YORK (KCBS/AP) – Microsoft has officially launched its Web-based email and Office services, part of its ongoing effort to keep Google at bay when it comes to business software.

“Office 365” has been available in a test version since last year. It combines Web-based versions of Word, Excel and other Office applications. It also includes the Exchange e-mail system, SharePoint online collaboration technology and Microsoft’s instant messaging, Internet phone and video conferencing system.

CNET Editor-at-Large Brian Cooley said users may want to switch from having the software on their computer to having the cloud for several reasons: cost, convenience and collaboration.

“For this you’re going to be paying a few bucks month to use as a web service, not the $150 to $400 you might spend on the MS Office you get on a disk,” Cooley explains. “You can get to your documents from any Internet-connected computer and you can invite others to collaborate on your documents.”

Google Inc. has its own set of office software called Google Docs that’s based in the “cloud,” that is, hosted on remote servers and accessed online instead of on users’ desktop computers. And it’s free. Google Apps is a bumped up version mainly aimed at corporations and costs $4 or $5 per month.

Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday that it plans to charge $2 to $27 per month for Office 365 depending on what’s included.

You can hear his Tech Watch report Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:50 P.M. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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