At an event in New York City, Microsoft launched Office 365, a cloud based offering of its popular Office software package including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The program is officially available to all after being in beta for nine months with an initial participation from 200,000 organizations. It will be available in 40 markets and is being billed as a business life saver by Microsoft. The package includes Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online into a singular cloud-based offering at a rate of $6 per user per month, but comes in a variety of packages that range in price from $2-$27 per month.

Great collaboration is critical to business growth, and because it's so important, we believe the best collaboration technology should be available to everyone, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said at the event. With a few clicks, Office 365 levels the playing field, giving small and midsize businesses powerful collaboration tools that have given big businesses an edge for years.

Microsoft said the 200,000 organizations which beta tested Office 365 reported it boosted productivity 50 percent. The software will allow users to store and save documents in the cloud and connect instantly with fellow users via instant messaging and virtual meetings.

The software giant is saying Office 365 will be ideal for businesses because it connects systems integrators, software vendors, resellers and other partners. Essentially, the cloud based service can automatically can connect any company to any of its clients or partners that has the software.

Microsoft Office has one billion users and is the world's flagship production suite. However, Microsoft has launched some cloud offerings in the past, none have been as extensive as this. The company's Office product line represented 30 percent of its revenue this past year and that mostly came from hard copies.

The cloud has become a popular new service for tech giants as of late, who are telling businesses it can save them money on servers. Google Apps software, which allows people to store and transfer documents in the cloud, has been widely successful with 30 million users.

Recently, Apple introduced the iCloud, which is designed around saving and sharing music in the cloud. However, Apple's in the cloud mentality stretches across to PC software as well.

Google fired off a shot against its competitor with a blog post this week taking aim at Microsoft's Office 365. In the post, Shan Sinha, Google Apps Product Manager, made the case for his product.

Office 365 is for individuals. Apps is for teams, Sinha said. Most of us no longer spend our days working on our own. We work with others: creating, collaborating, sharing. With Apps you can work with multiple people in the same document. There's no need to worry about whether or not it's possible to share a spreadsheet, or co-edit a presentation. You can see people type in real time, and share a file in just two clicks. Discussions bring people into your documents for rich conversations. You don't need to buy additional licenses to work with others, or hope people outside your company have upgraded to the same software. If you have a Google account, you can collaborate.

He went on to further say Microsoft 365 is built strictly for Microsoft, while Google Apps is built for choice and that their solution is better on mobile.

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