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Microsoft launches Office 365 Marketplace selling Web apps for businesses

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Microsoft on Monday launched an app store for its Office 365 cloud-based software and pushed the suite into a public beta-testing release available in 38 countries and 17 languages, as the tech giant works to fend off challenges from Google.

The Office 365 Marketplace will sell Web-based applications and services that work with Office 365 -- a version of the company's Office Suite, which includes programs such as Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint, and saves files to the "cloud," which in this case is Microsoft Servers.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is promising easier collaboration between co-workers with files stored in the cloud, allowing multiple users to access Office files, make changes and keep documents up to date as needed using Office 365, which is set to officially launch sometime this year.

Before Monday, Office 365 was in a private beta release, which only allowed selected companies to use and test the software suite. The public beta release opens up the software to any company that wants to sign up to test out the software ahead of its official launch.

More than 150 other companies offering their own applications, software plug-ins, services and training for companies looking to take on Microsoft's cloud-based suite were listed in the Office 365 Marketplace on Monday.

Office 365 was introduced last fall, and since then more than 100,000 companies and organizations have signed up to help Microsoft test the software and prep it for a general retail release, a Microsoft product manager said in a blog post.

Google's Cloud Connect, a similar offering to Office 365 that is also compatible with Microsoft Office software, launched in February. Cloud Connect not only allows users to sync and collaborate on Office files over the Internet, it works with Google Docs as well.

Microsoft also announced a "Ready for Work" contest, which businesses can enter using the Office 365 Facebook page.

The contest will award five small businesses prizes of $50,000 each and Office 365 free for a year, as well as a Microsoft executive who will work for the winning companies (or a charity of a business' choice) for a day.

To enter, Microsoft is asking businesses to explain in 365 words or less, on Facebook, what inspires them to work every day and how Office 365 can help them reach their goals in the next year.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A Microsoft marketing graphic explaining how a business might use Office 365. Credit: Microsoft

 
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