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By: Clint Patterson
Just one month ago, we introduced Office 365 to the world, and the response has been awesome. We continue to see great press and analyst coverage, fantastic partner support, and amazing customer interest. 5,000 people 'like' Office 365 on Facebook, more than 4,000 follow Office 365 on Twitter, thousands more read this blog every day, and more than 60,000 organizations have signed up for the beta - roughly 2,000 per day.
With all the buzz, we've seen lots of questions about the beta process and when will 'my' account be activated. So we wanted to take the chance to answer some of the top questions help folks understand what to expect.
1) When does the beta start?
It has already started. We are adding more organizations to the beta gradually over several weeks, so we're always adding new testers every day.
2) Why is the beta limited?
There are lots of reasons, but two are really important: First, we want everyone testing Office 365 to have a great experience, and second, we need to be able to test things like scalability and performance in a controlled environment. Limiting the beta ensures we can do both.
3) Will there be a "public" beta?
We expect to be able to add more folks to the beta, but we don't know when or how many just yet because we just started testing.
A public beta is something we always do for software products, but it's not always necessary for cloud services. With software, a public beta helps us test the near-infinite number of environments customers have, but with a cloud service, we have only one environment - our data centers. So, with cloud services, we will often gate beta access, as we did with betas for BPOS, Azure and Intune.
4) How many people get into the beta?
We're limiting the beta to just a few thousand organizations initially. Each organization will be able to roll out 25 accounts.
5) If I'm registered for the beta, how do I know if I got in?
You'll get an e-mail from us with your account credentials.
6) How are you determining who gets into the beta?
To start, you have to meet the requirements for the beta, like being in one of the thirteen countries and regions where it's available. Basic stuff like that. After that, it is basically first-come, first served, but there are a couple of exceptions. First, some early beta slots were allocated to existing customers who have been helping us design our cloud services. We figure that's the least we could do. Second, we require a geographically diverse set of testers. So, for example, if all the first applicants were in Hong Kong, we would eventually have to skip until we found the first applicants in Spain, Singapore and Germany.
7) Is the beta feature complete?
Not entirely. While it is mostly feature complete, we are still adding new capabilities, as is the case with most betas. Before we launch Office 365, we will add some additional capabilities, such as Lync Online capabilities from the newly released server, for example.
8) What happens if I have not gotten into the beta yet?
You'll get a monthly e-mail from us with the latest status on the service until you get in or we launch. We won't forget about you, and you'll be among the very first to learn when the service launches.
9) What should I do in the meantime? I really want to try out your service!
You can test BPOS with a free, 30-day trial right now (trust us, no wait list). BPOS combines Exchange Online and SharePoint Online with Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online (soon to be Lync Online). You'll be in pretty elite company - Volvo, DuPont, Godiva, GAP, GlaxoSmithKline, Energizer, Starbucks, Tyco, Rexel and thousands of others have chosen BPOS for their business today. And if you subscribe to BPOS, you can move to Office 365 when it launches next year. (For more details on that transition, check out our BPOS transition center.)
10) So, if I haven't signed up for the beta already, should I even bother?
Yes. Bother! Signing up for the beta holds your place in line, so the fastest way to get into the beta is to sign up now.
Thanks for your enthusiasm and great questions. Keep them coming!
@Allen It's a pity to hear that the Office 365 beta is not available in The Netherlands (for Microsoft BPOS/Online partners). When I have a client who wants to participate in an early Office 365 showcase: I have to say no right now. Do you knwo when is the Office 365 beta will be available for the Netherlands?
@lurman: As I've said to Abby, we really do love our partners and are committed to their success, as we need to work together to be successful with Office 365. Considering the limitations we have on the Beta at this point, it is only fair to not give all the spots tt partners (we have many in the beta) but also a varying assortment of enterprises, medium sized business and even little shops, professionals and MVPs, in order to fully test the service and features in every possible way.
@Rob: The most likely answer is that it won't, instead the product will become fully available before that would happen, at which point you will have it in the Netherlands. As with any new release, its always difficult to handle the transition between versions, but please be patient with us. One of the most exciting things about Office 365 is the fact that as an online service, we won't have these "transition" periods anymore, but everyone will be kept up to date and have access to our latest technology. Office 365 is built on the latest server software with a re-architected identity infrastructure, which is the main cause of all this "transition and migration" timeframe.
@Allen_WSFT: Thank you for responding. Yes, I did notice Q4 above but from my research on this I know that many partners need time to get familiar with new cloud solutions and in other hit the ground running from day one after RTM it is essential to make sure early information is available. I would suggest a series of early beta in-depth webcasts taking us through the features of the product while at the same time providing a forum for the development team to collect valuable feedback. As @Willie mentioned above we see the glowing comments about the product but don't really know much about it. Microsoft needs to do more to keep us excited by showing off the product to partners at regular milestones; this will also act as a training and familiarity platform for Office 365.
I am a partner and I would like to know whether there password expiration ist strictly enforced in Office 365. I have had lots of customers that don't want to change their password every month or so. Could you get me some input on this?
Does Office 365 Lync allow for integration with your phone system. as an example, bpos doesn't currently allow integration with sip to my phone system. will office 365 allow this functionality?
@Abby: I will pass along your information to my team. We do have lots of webcasts planned (again, for those in the Beta) it might be worthwhile to make those available to our partners to get more familiarity with the product.
@Allen_MSFT: Thank you. Yes, I think that would be a good idea at least if we can't get our hands on the real thing we can keep up to date with the webcasts and as such reduce our learning curve at full product release.
For partners who are not in the Beta. Where can we give feedback and feature suggestions for Office 365?
We are looking at moving from the 'traditional' small business infrastructure, to a cloud based system. We have several in-house Access 2000/SQL 2000 applications currently on the desktop - will Office365 offer the ability to migrate these to the cloud?
Can applications be used offline? Many staff have laptops, as they are regularly out of the office.
Can desktop applications - in particular Visio 2010 - be integrated with Office365?
We would also be keen in migrating our Sharepoint, Exchange and File storage to the cloud, allowing us to reduce our in-house IT costs.
Alastair @ Optima CS
Is there any forum where partners can get succinct answers from Microsoft regarding Office365? Im not here to blast anyone however I've received information that this product is the 2nd generation of BPOS. I was under the impression that it was the next generation of Office Live Small Business? I have clients who are eagle to determine if this product will exceed the 75 user license limitation, however it's been very frustrating as I can find no answers.
@Ed - Our forums are accessible through this site but only to beta members.
Also, you could think of this as the next generation of BPOS. The new (and let's be honest, much better) name is the same services except with our 2010 suite of server products. There will be Office 365 for Enterprises and Office 365 for Small Businesses.
The user limit enforced now is simply because we are in beta and want to work up to full scale scenarios. Once the full service is released, there will be no limit. Depending on size you may have to have a special rule made, but I've heard some very big numbers for company sizes we're expecting to support. I don't know if we plan to expand that limit during beta and have no inside information, but I heard through this site that we're expanding the beta in the future. That might just refer to letting a significantly larger amount of companies in, but I'm guessing it will also increase the limit. Like I said, no inside information, just a guess.
@Alastair_Optima_CS - I don't know the answer to the Access/SQL 2000 question. I'll try looking around for the answer today.
All of the Office client applications you use will work with Office 365. I think it's 2007 or later for PC versions and 2008 or later for mac versions. If you have an old version of those apps you might want to check the other "top 10 questions" because I think it was answered in one of them. So you won't be using the web version of word offline, but if you have Word on your computer, phone, or tablet you can work offline and sync back up to sharepoint once you get a connection.
It's included in the above question, but to say it plainly, yes, Visio 2010 will integrate with Office365.
I don't know if the line about moving your Sharepoint, Exchange, and file storage to the cloud was a question, but the migration is definitely possible. You can go back and forth between online and on-prem so you won't have to start all over.
@Abby - For partners who are not in the Beta, this might be the best place. I'm just a dev and not really familiar with any structure of contacts we have for partners, but I know that the teams working on Office365 were asked to stay up to date with this site. Other than that, hopefully as the beta progresses we'll have more opportunities to answer your questions.
@Abby: Feel free to mail me personally Office365@microsoft.com and I can route your suggestions. Stay tuned though as more and more information will be coming each week. I know it is furstrating but bear with us please.
I see your response that Office 365 works great with WP7. Can't wait to try the 2 together. My greatest frustration with WP7 is the voicemail (after having iPhone visual voicemail previously).
Will the Office 365 feature of "voicemail transcripts delivered right in the Outlook inbox" be an option on WP7?