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SMEs will particularly benefit from the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Office 365 cloud service, released Tuesday, as it enables companies of limited resources to access the same collaboration tools as large enterprises on an on-demand basis, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during a press conference broadcast over the web.
Office 365 is now available in 40 markets, and brings together Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online for a monthly subscription.
The service was introduced in beta last year. Businesses using the service have reported a reduction of up to 50% in IT costs while boosting productivity, the company said in a statement.
"I think it's exciting to imagine the possibilities, particularly for the companies that have little or no IT support and very little time and financial resources. For them, 365, where Office meets the cloud, is a big step forward," Ballmer said.
The executive said 70% of companies that signed up for the Office 365 beta version were SMEs.
More than 20 service providers have announced plans to bring Office 365 packages to SMEs this year, including Spain's Telefónica (NYSE: TEF), one of the two largest operators in Latin America.
With Office 365, customers can use instant messaging and virtual meetings, work on files and documents at the same time, and share ideas.
Microsoft is building a partner ecosystem around Office 365, including systems integrators, software vendors, resellers and other partners.
These companies will package Office 365 with their own services - from web hosting and broadband to finance solutions and mobile services - and bring those new offerings to SMEs.