After all the hype, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer finally unveiled Office 365 in New York. For those who were expecting, or even hoping, for something new, it would have been a disappointment. If, however, you were to count the number of times he used the words "collaboration" and "SMB," you get a clear idea of where Microsoft is hoping to go with it.

Leaving aside  a number of demonstrations of how it will work, Balllmer was at pains to stress how good this will be for those looking for an enterprise collaboration suite. "Office 365 is where Office meets the cloud," Ballmer said at the event.

Office 365

Office 365 offers users the possibility of Office productivity applications such as Word and Excel through Office Web Apps -- the online version of Office -- or through Office Professional Plus 2010 on subscription.

We were shown real-time editing of an Office document, as well as retrieving and editing that same document on Windows Phone 7, although he had the grace to mention that these facilities will also be available on Android.

He also mentioned that, as part of the subscription service, companies will be either able to start from scratch and use what they need, or for those that own office applications already, they will be able to connect them to the Office 365 service.

Office 365 and SMBs

The event, though, was targeted specifically at the SMB space, and the impression is that it is in this space Microsoft is hoping to make its money with Office 365.

Of the 200,000 people who had tested the beta version of Office 365 since it was released in October, 70% were SMBs. He didn’t say, however, how many of those would be signing up to Office 365 now that it is on general release.

Office 365 levels the playing field, giving small and midsize businesses powerful collaboration tools that have given big businesses an edge for years," he said.

Of note, though, in respect to the SMB space, he did say that it has extended its Office 365 partner network by 20 major companies, all of whom have a substantial footprint in the SMB market and all of whom will be able to offer Office 365 as a product.

There was no  mention of changes to pricing, so we have to assume that the pricing options that were announced earlier in the year that offer three editions and two tiers with 11 pricing options will remain.

Monthly prices, as a result, will be between US$ 2 to US$ 27 per user, per month for anything that extends from basic email to the full-blown suite. It is available in 20 languages and in 40 countries. More on this as it happens.