Office 365 is now officially out, having been launched with great fanfare by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in New York City this week, but customers of the suite's previous version, called BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), will have to wait at least two months to join the party.
To make sure that the migration process to Office 365 runs smoothly for all BPOS customers, Microsoft is taking a conservative approach and piloting the move with a hand-selected set of customers.
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If all goes well, the company plans to begin "broad transitions" to Office 365 for BPOS customers at some point in September, the company told the IDG News Service.
Even then, Microsoft will make an evaluation for each BPOS customer's transition timing based on their response to a readiness survey and other technical criteria, the company said. "Our goal is to provide our existing customers the best experience when transitioning to Office 365. The one-time transition process is an important step to rolling out the service and we're focused on getting it right," Microsoft said in a statement.
New customers and those who want to migrate their accounts and data from other non-Microsoft suites can sign up for Office 365 as of July 1.
The situation doesn't sit well with at least some BPOS customers who were eager to migrate to Office 365 right away and expressed their disappointment that they won't be able to in a discussion forum.
"Wow, so I guess the solution is to terminate service and sign back up, or maybe just terminate service and go elsewhere. Between the recent significant decrease in the support team's ability to, well, offer support and this, it's making it hard to stay happy with the service," a BPOS customer wrote in the discussion thread. "Can't argue with the business logic though -- they already get our money. It's way more important to push the service to new folks so they can collect their money as well. If only the marketing folks took the time to think about what happens when they alienate the customer base."
Office 365, a cloud-based collaboration and communication suite, includes online versions of the 2010 editions of Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and Office, offered through a variety of configuration options, all billed on a per-user-per-month basis. Industry observers view it as a much stronger competitor to Google Apps and other rivals than BPOS, which lacks the Office components and whose applications are based on the 2007 versions of their on-premise counterparts.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said that the intention to proceed with care when dealing with BPOS-to-Office 365 migrations isn't new and neither is the plan to have a pilot program following the product's general availability.