Microsoft to expand online services

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced on Monday that the company will be offering Microsoft Online Services to businesses of all sizes, marking a significant step for Microsoft towards expanding its software plus services strategy.

The announcement was shared during Gates' keynote at the Microsoft Office SharePoint Conference 2008, scheduled to run from March 3 to 6.

Based on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, the new online services will enable businesses to access email, calendaring, contacts, shared workspaces, and Web conferencing or video conferencing over the Web.

The services are managed through a single Web-based interface, and IT professionals will be able to use it to monitor the performance of the services, add and configure users, submit and track support requests and manage users and licenses.

"The combination of software plus services gives customers advanced choice and flexibility in how they access and manage software," says Gates.

"With Microsoft Online Services, businesses can deploy software as a subscription service, from servers they manage on-site, or a combination of the two, depending on their specific needs.

In the future, customers and partners should expect to see this kind of choice and flexibility for all of Microsoft's software and server products."

US-based companies can register for the limited beta trial at ( The new services are scheduled to see a general release in the second half of 2008, says the company.

During the event, Microsoft also launched Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, a free, downloadable enterprise search product that combines simplicity with a powerful set of search features.

The company also launched Silverlight Blueprint for SharePoint, which enables customers to combine Silverlight and SharePoint to build rich Internet applications.

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