Microsoft Touts Office 365 Momentum, Offers Service Update

Microsoft's Office 365 cloud applications are getting their first upgrade since their June launch, offering some 30 new features and technical enhancements, including support for Windows Phone 7.5 and SharePoint Business Connectivity Services.

Microsoft, without disclosing actual sales numbers, also reported what it described as rapid adoption of the Office 365 services, particularly among small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The company said those customers account for more than 90 percent of the Office 365 customer base.

"Office 365 is being adopted eight times faster than its predecessor," said Andrew Kisslo, Office 365 group product manager, in a blog.

Kisslo was referring to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services, the suite of online applications that preceded Office 365. The new cloud application suite debuted in June and includes Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online.

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Microsoft also said it's expanding trial availability of the Office 365 services to 22 additional countries beyond those where it's currently available. Those include Turkey, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Argentina.

With the new support for SharePoint Business Connectivity Services, Office 365 users can link to line-of-business applications, such as SAP applications, through a SharePoint interface. And the Windows Phone 7.5 support allows users to access and update documents in SharePoint Online using their Windows Phone device.

Also new in Office 365 is the ability for users to display Office document attachments in Outlook Web Access. The Lync for Mac client offers instant messaging and presence information for Mac users. And a new password reset tool helps IT administrators simplify security resets.

Microsoft also is updating its SkyDrive personal cloud storage service, providing new file management and HTML5 capabilities that make it easier for SkyDrive users to access and share documents.