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Microsoft‘s SaaS offering, Office 365, formally launched today at events in (at least) London and New York. An adjunct to the massively profitable Microsoft Office installed base, and a response to Google Apps, Zoho, and other low cost cloud-based competitors, there’s a lot riding on this product. Comparisons with Google Apps — which can be available for free — are being drawn, and the initial commentary suggests that competition will be fierce. InfoWorld scores Office 365 just above Google Apps in a review, whilst the Financial Times‘ Richard Waters suggests that Microsoft’s relative tardiness in embracing the cloud may not matter to customers who are only now beginning that journey for themselves. InformationWeek highlights Google’s preemptive strike yesterday (doesn’t drawing attention to the competition simply highlight the fact that you’re worried by it?) before going on to flag 10 enterprise concerns in evaluating the competing products. Tim Anderson reckons that Office 365’s similarity to familiar products will ensure its success, while Galen Gruman and Dennis Howlett are amongst those highlighting surprising limitations in mobile support and (less surprising?) failings on desktop operating systems other than Windows. Elsewhere, companies have been quick to announce complementary solutions that may appeal to a broad set of prospective customers. To have a company of Microsoft’s stature make such a potentially disruptive (to themselves, if to no one else) move toward the cloud helps to increase the credibility and visibility of the whole cloud computing proposition. It remains to be seen who this ends up helping most; Microsoft or its upstart competitors.