A cloud computing version of Microsoft's ubiquitous Office productivity suite was released this week, combining accessibility with monthly licensing costs.

The application virtualization technology behind the new Office 365 product is not new, but its use in products common to the vast majority of businesses, like Exchange Server and Office, is sure to be a ground-breaking event.

"With a few clicks, Office 365 levels the playing field, giving small and midsize businesses powerful collaboration tools that have given big businesses an edge for years," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Pricing for the cloud-based productivity tools will range from a monthly $2 to $27 charge per user, depending on the specific functionality required. Small businesses can take advantage of one package, costing $6 per user per month, to get Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, LyncOnline, SharePoint Online and a company website, Microsoft said.

The product could seriously undercut Google Docs, according to experts. While the search giant's product is free for many users, businesses accustomed to Office software are likely to be strongly attracted to Office 365.


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