If you weren't really sure if Microsoft was serious about their strong focus on the cloud, think again. With 40 million seats sold of BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services), Microsoft says their customers are embracing the cloud and it's only going to get better.

The Numbers Tell a Good Story 

It really doesn't matter what you think about Microsoft, they are moving in the right direction. They have sold more than 6 million copies of Office to date, but even more interesting in the first 100 days it went live, Microsoft picked up 20 million users for Office Web Apps (who said the online version was crappy again?).

Suffice it to say that more organizations are heading for the cloud for a number of needs and business productivity tools happen to be one of them. 

BPOS has seen 3x growth this year, with now over 40 million paid seats. These seats are comprised of smaller businesses and many large enterprises. Microsoft's general manager of online services Betsy Frost Webb told us that there are many larger enterprises using the standard edition of BPOS (as well as a number using the Dedicated edition).

This week Microsoft announced a number of new customers to BPOS, including a new state using the government version of BPOS. A number of new educational institutions have also signed on to use Live@edu, Microsoft's free communication and collaboration platform for students, faculty, staff and alumni (bringing the total to 10,000 schools in 130 countries).

Gearing Up for 2010 Implementations

The customer numbers look good, but what looks even better is the planned upgrade of BPOS to the 2010 products later this year -- or a preview at least. Webb indicated that along with upgrades to Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Lync 2010 (formerly called Office Communications Server), users will also have access to Office Web Apps.

Microsoft recently added a Health Services Dashboard to BPOS to keep customers aware of any issues with the services they have registered for. 

Competition for the Cloud

Microsoft isn't the only vendor beefing up their cloud offerings. IBM has just offered hosted email as part of their LotusLive family of services, and they have partnered with ADP to offer tax filing via cloud service. Long-time SharePoint competitor Box.net has also been busy adding a content centric newsfeed and support for the Android.

Webb said that some of the things that makes BPOS so popular are its familiarity and ease of use, and let's not forget its cost. But with other vendors wanting to stake claims in this productivity market, Microsoft may need to add a little more to continue their growth pattern. Of course this is Microsoft, the fall preview of the updated BPOS will likely reflect that.