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Office 365 Business: Microsoft aims for higher partner appeal

Microsoft says its new Office 365 Business delivers on partners' requests for core Office applications that are compellingly priced, easy to sell, have an easier onramp and improved upselling possibilities.

On Thursday, Microsoft released three new Office 365 plans that target small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), keeping a promise made to partners at this year's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) held in July.

The new Office 365 SMB plans include Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Essentials and Office 365 Business Premium, all for companies with as many as 300 employees.

According to Microsoft, the new Office 365 plans deliver on partners' requests for core Office applications for SMBs at a compelling price point, and that are easy to sell, have a new customer onramp and provide improved upsell opportunities.

The new product release is part of what Microsoft calls its mobile-first, cloud-first strategy, which was a leading theme at WPC 2014. At that time, Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Program, pointed out that Office 365 is Microsoft's fastest-growing product ever.

Office 365 Business is Microsoft's full suite of Office applications -- Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher -- and includes OneDrive for Business cloud storage.

Office 365 Business is positioned as an initial-pitch product for partners. It comes with 1 TB of cloud storage; Office Online; and access, editing and sync capabilities across PCs, Macs, iPads and smartphones. Priced at $8.25 per user per month, the plan does not require the migration of email or data.

Office 365 Business Essentials and Business Premium replace Small Business and Small Business Premium, respectively.

Office 365 Business Essentials includes business-class email and calendaring, Office Online, online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing.

For customers looking for the whole shebang, partners can offer customers Office 365 Business Premium, which combines both Office 365 Business and Business Essentials. The plan is available from $12.50 to $15 per user per month.

While previous product versions limited a partner's ability to upsell customers, the new product plans allow partners to move customers between Business and Enterprise plans and add services such as PowerBI, Project, Visio, Dynamics CRM and Azure RMS as customer needs grow, according to Microsoft.

At WPC, when Microsoft announced that it would offer the new Office 365 plans, it also announced new cloud competencies, including the Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency (formerly Small Business competency), for partners selling Microsoft Office 365 to SMB customers. It became officially available Sept. 20. The Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency enables partners to capitalize on the demand from the SMB marketplace for cloud and hybrid solutions built on Microsoft Office 365 and provide partners with additional support and incentives, according to Microsoft.

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Do the new Office 365 Business plans work better for your customers than the Office 365 Small Business plans?