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Microsoft Continues with Office 365 June Release Despite Beta Problems

Despite on-going issues in beta, Office 365 will still be released this month says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

According to Neovise analyst and 20-year veteran software engineer for HP Paul Burns, “I’m a big fan of Office 365. I think it’s going to do well… But if they are moving out of beta at the end of June, then yes, I’m surprised.”

After beta-testing Office 365 Burns strongly noted that Office 365 isn’t ready for release due to common complaints like the cloud-based software’s lack of contact importing. Burns’ pointed out additional problems, including non-delivery of email, a status dashboard that lacks information, bounced-back emails, a lack of notifications when sending errors occur and issues with format when importing Word docs to Office Web Apps. This last issue is an especially hot button for Microsoft seeing as they openly criticized Google Docs, Office 365’s main competitor for having the same formatting issues.

Burn’s primary complaint is that Office 365 lacks an ability to import contacts from other common MS programs like Outlook, which normally has the ability to export global address lists via exchange servers. Beta testers have been manually importing contacts one-by-one or have had to upgrade to Office 365’s Enterprise version where users can import contacts via Windows PowerShell.

“This is another example of how such a basic requirement from any business cannot be executed unless you have the Enterprise package. Why the heck should you need to have the Enterprise package simply to be able to import contacts into the GAL?,” said another beta tester in the Microsoft Office 365 forums.

In response a Microsoft representative wrote this in an email statement,”Office 365 for small businesses is designed specifically for smaller businesses and professionals who are looking for cloud-based productivity tools without the IT hassles.”

After enough complaints from beta testers though Microsoft announced that they made contact importing available with PowerShell in the non-enterprise version as well. “Small Business subscribers can now use Remote PowerShell, so you should be able to use instructions at help.outlook.com to connect to your account and import those contacts,” says Alexander Karls, MSFT Moderator.

The on-going problem Burns, and other beta testers, have is that PowerShell requires that users work in a command-line interface, something time consuming and “not everyone has the expertise to do that,” says Burns.

In addition to the the global address list issue Burns and other testers have found it unreasonably difficult to create properly functioning email aliases. “I went to download PowerShell, but very quickly I realized this is going to be time-consuming — and if I write the script, how do I test it? How do I know it’s right? Now I’m afraid to run the script on my data. What if I biff it and delete all my stuff instead?,” says Burns.

Another user complained in the forums that Office 365’s beta only allows 5 POP or IMAP email accounts be regularly scanned, whereas additional accounts are only checked once an hour. “In this beta exchange environment you have to wait an hour before connected mail accounts will be checked. This is unacceptable,” says that user that says if this problem is not fixed he will pass on Office 365. Yet another beta-testing user has issues with calendar tasks not syncing with the Windows mobile phone platform. Other users had issues with the difficulty associated with creating SharePoint sites.