I recently had the opportunity to interview Mark Kashman, a Senior Product Manager for SharePoint at Microsoft. I wanted to get his views on Office365, SharePoint Online and how he sees this cloud offering co-existing with SharePoint "On Premise" in the future.

Chris Wright: Office365 has been, and continues to be, a great success for Microsoft. What has most pleased you about the reaction to SharePoint Online?

Mark Kashman: Accessibility. What’s been really exciting about SharePoint Online is how it has extended SharePoint’s capabilities to companies of all sizes, and we really look forward to seeing the new ways in which small and mid-size businesses will be able to use SharePoint to solve their business needs. As the way people work has dramatically changed over the past few years, the need to collaborate with any person, from any device, no matter their location, is greater than ever before.

CW: What do you think is the biggest competitor to SharePoint Online right now?

MK: There are competitors of all shapes and sizes. Competition drives innovation, and competition certainly is one part of the equation that is driving Microsoft’s quality and pace of innovation. We absolutely believe choice in the market is a good thing for customers and -- at the end of the day -- more customers chose Microsoft.

With SharePoint Online, customers can get all of the benefits of collaboration in the cloud and the richness of the SharePoint platform, plus rich integration with all of the other Office products. Starting at just $6 per user per month, SharePoint Online clearly offers more value across variety of scenarios for less than what competitors provide for just islands of file sharing.

We’re hearing from our customers that they want to collaborate and share ideas, not just access documents. SharePoint Online goes much deeper -- providing new ways for people to work together, evolving with their growing needs.

CW: Where do you think SharePoint Online needs to improve, when compared to traditional "on premises" SharePoint?

MK: Today, most of the capabilities of SharePoint Server are available in SharePoint Online except for a few advanced capabilities like FAST Search, some BI dashboarding through PerformancePoint and farm-level ISV solutions. With every release (which now happen every 90-120 days), we close that gap. For example, we brought Business Connectivity Services (BCS) to the SharePoint Online in Office 365 in November 2011.

We plan to incorporate more and more features into SharePoint Online in the future. Microsoft is focused on ensuring that all features, capabilities, development models built for SharePoint are “service ready” -- built with both on-premises and SharePoint Online in mind.

CW: In the longer term how do you see SharePoint "on premises" and SharePoint Online co-existing?

MK: The market is absolutely big enough for both. SharePoint Online brings collaboration to the cloud, and lets enterprises use the cloud on their terms. Even the most complex and sophisticated SharePoint deployments can benefit from the cloud, and these customers will have a mixed environment.

Moving even just existing sites to the cloud can provide significant cost savings in infrastructure, IT manageability and overall resourcing that customers could reinvest in delivering high value to the business.

CW: Do you foresee a time when Microsoft adopts a cloud only model for SharePoint?

MK: With all the innovation, by Microsoft and other vendors, it is feasible to think that companies will be able to run a majority, if not all, their SharePoint workloads from the cloud.

It is a choice customers have, and will continue to have, so they can decide what projects, what data to move to the cloud. As was the shift from the record player to tape player to CD player to MP3 player and so on, Microsoft will continue to provide new and improved ways for people to collaborate -- to get work done at an affordable cost. As new innovation opens up new ways to work, we will see the shift -- and we feel Microsoft is best positioned to help customers move to the highest level of productivity in the cloud.