That Microsoft released the consumer-focused version of Office 2013, Office 365 Home Premium, before releasing the business version isa bit of mystery given that Office 365 is clearly geared for businesses. However, today it has finally released the updated business versions that focus on social and mobile enterprises, as well as upgrades to its standard applications.

Office 365 For Business

In the announcement around the new business offerings, Microsoft has gone out of its way to stress how economical and adaptable it is to the needs of small-and-medium enterprises -- probably as a way of making up for the fact that it looks to be pushing everyone to online versions of Office 2013 -- but that's another story.

This version of Office 365 comes with updated versions of Microsoft Lync Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft SharePoint Online services. It also offers upgraded applications for Word, Excel and OneNote -- and on five different devices too -- the five devices clause being the carrot to the stick of stiff pricing for on-premises versions. And, in terms of social, better ;social enterprise abilities through SharePoint and one of Microsoft’s new babies, Yammer,with Lync-Skype connectivity for presence, instant messaging and voice expected by June.

While 'launch' is probably not the right word to be using here -- more a glorified upgrade -- as of today, it is now available in 69 markets and in 17 languages, with another 16 languages and 20 markets in the pipeline for the end of the second quarter this year.

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Office 365 SharePoint Online

Office 365 SKUs

So what is it businesses are being offered today? Well there are three new SKUs: Office 365 ProPlus, Midsize and Small Business Premium.

Office 365 ProPlus

At a cost of US$ 144 per user/year, Office 365 ProPlus provides updated premium Office 365 Enterprise offerings and the new Office 365 Midsize Business.

This is the full bells-and-whistles set of rich Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, InfoPath and Access that enables users to sign-in from any device and access their documents through personalized settings. Administrators are also offered the possibility of running it in conjunction with other versions of Office, and tools to streamline and manage updates for their users.

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Office 365 Lync

Learning Opportunities

Office 365 Midsize Business

Coming in at US$ 180 per user/year, the equivalent of US$ 15 per user/month, Office 365 Midsize Business Caters to the SMB market. The release is designed for businesses with between 10 and 250 users. It includes Office 365 ProPlus along with enterprise-quality communication and collaboration with Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online. Active Directory is included along with business-hours phone.

Office 365 Small Business Premium

For US$ 150 per user/year, or the equivalent of US$ 12.50 user/month user, Office 365 Small Business Premium is designed for small businesses with up to 10 users. It comes with all the Office applications, as well as email, shared calendars, website tools and HD video conferencing -- and it doesn't require IT expertise.

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Office 365 Excel

There are some other interesting tidbits that appear in the papers around this release; however we’ll spare you the details from a day in the life of Hamburg Port Authority, which Microsoft has used, among other companies, to outline how effective this product is.

That said, some of the interesting facts that emerge -- and this is according to Microsoft -- after only 18 months since its original release, one in five of Microsoft’s enterprise customers have now subscribed to Office 365, up from one in seven a year ago.

It also says that the number of SMBs using is has grown by 150% over the past year and that it expects some interesting growth on the back of the new SKUs.