Microsoft offers free trial of online business apps

Microsoft is rolling out its hosted productivity and collaboration applications to 15 countries in Europe as well as Canada, Japan and New Zealand from today.

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Microsoft is rolling out its hosted productivity and collaboration applications to 15 countries in Europe as well as Canada, Japan and New Zealand from today.

Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite is now available in the UK, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The suite includes online versions of Microsoft's messaging and portal software -- Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, respectively-- as well as Office Communications Online, a hosted unified-communications offering, and Office Live Meeting, a hosted Web-conferencing application.

The subscription price for the suite, which is already available in the US, is US$15 per user, per month, and prices overseas will be comparable to this, Microsoft said.

In Britain the suite will cost £10.04 per user, per month, and in Europe it will cost €12.78 per user, per month.

Microsoft is also is selling the services individually at prices that compare to those at US ones. Microsoft sells hosted Exchange Online for $10 per user, per month; SharePoint Online for $7.25 per user, per month; Office Communications Online for $2.50 per user, per month; and Office Live Meeting for $4.50 per user, per month, the company said.

Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Deskless Worker Suite, designed for employees who only need occasional access to the Web, is also being made more widely available. In the US, the suite costs US$3 per user, in the UK it will cost £2.01 and in Europe €2.56.

Organisations in the UK can get a trial access during March to them or to the individual services by signing up online, said John Betz, a director in Microsoft's Business Online Services Group. In April, those services will become commercially available for purchase, he said. Companies can accommodate up to 20 users during the trial period, Betz added.

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