Microsoft Corp on Tuesday launched a full online version of its popular Office suite of applications as it looks to extend its customer base and beat back rival Google Inc.
The new service, called Office 365, is available as a test from Tuesday in 13 countries, and will be on sale on a subscription basis worldwide next year.
Combining some of Microsoft’s existing cloud-based services, it will be available through most browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Google Chrome, and can be used on mobile devices such as Research in Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry and Apple’s iPad.
That means customers can get access to Office programs like Outlook e-mail, SharePoint websites and simplified versions of Word and Excel without installing software, from virtually anywhere. Customers get access to more features when the software is also installed.
The move strikes a blow against Google, which has had success with its Google Apps service, which provides a low-cost, Web-based alternative to Microsoft’s traditional Office software for $50 per user per year.
Microsoft will offer the service to small companies with fewer than 25 employees for $6 or 5.25 euros per user per month.
For larger companies, prices will start from $2 per user per month for basic e-mail. A fuller “professional” version will cost up to $27 per user per month. Microsoft shares were down 3.1 per cent at $25.01 on Nasdaq.