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Microsoft 365’s New Price Tier, RingCentral Dials In to the Hybrid Workplace & More News

August 27, 2021 Digital Workplace
David Roe
By David Roe

If the importance of the new Microsoft 365 pricing to Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft was unclear, a quick look at the company's share price earlier this week should have cleared it all up.

After the software giant announced late last week that it is bumping the price of the productivity suite next year – a move the company says is the first substantial increase since the original launch of Office 365 – Microsoft's share price closed at $304.65, giving the company a valuation of around $2.3 trillion.

The price has pulled back slightly since, but it's certain no one at Microsoft is losing much sleep about that. Overall, Microsoft shares are up 37% for the year, while Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has recorded gains of around 60% since the beginning of the year.

The price rise has been in the cards for a while and reflects the growing functionality across the suite, as well as its growing traction in the enterprise. Since its launch, Office 365 has grown to more than 300 million commercial paid seats, according to Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365.

"Along the way, we have continuously re-invested to meet the changing needs of our customers," he wrote in a blog post. "Four years ago, we introduced Microsoft 365 to bring together the best of Office, Windows, and Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS)."

The pricing changes will go into effect in six months. Starting March 2022, the per-user pricing for the commercial products will be:

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic: from $5 to $6.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium: from $20 to $22.
  • Office 365 E1: from $8 to $10.
  • Office 365 E3: from $20 to $23.
  • Office 365 E5: from $35 to $38.
  • Microsoft 365 E3: from $32 to $36.

These increases will apply globally, with local market adjustments for certain regions, and there will be no change in price for education and consumer products.

It is also worth noting that at launch in June 2011, Office 365 included Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Lync, Exchange and InfoPath. It has since expanded to add other apps in whole or in part, and entirely new capabilities including: Access, Bookings, Delve, Forms, GroupMe, Kaizala, Lens, Lists, OneDrive, OneNote Class Notebook, Planner, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI, Publisher, SharePoint, Staff Hub, Stream, Sway, Teams, To-Do, Visio, Whiteboard and Yammer.

Atlassian Shrugs, Trello Responds With a New Pricing Model

Atlassian, the company behind a suite of applications popular with software developers and project managers, has also been looking at its pricing. The Sydney, Australia-based company announced that it has added a new pricing tier for Trello, its collaboration and workflow management tool.

Organizations that found the price jump between the free edition to the Business Class edition just a little bit steep will find much to like. Called Standard, the new tier is specifically aimed at small organizations and costs $5 per user per month if paid up front, or $6 per user per month on a monthly basis.

There’s other good stuff, too. Those that decide to upgrade from the free edition to Standard will also be able to take advantage of unlimited boards and increased automation capabilities to save time and boost productivity. The new automation features will enable users to cut down on tedious and repetitive tasks and take advantage of Trello’s built-in workflow automation. Premium will also enable organizations to coordinate and manage work beyond the boards and across the Trello dashboard, timeline, table, calendar and map views.

Also worth noting is that users who have signed up for the new tier will receive unlimited boards in Trello as well as unlimited storage, although there is a 250 MB file limit. They'll also be permitted 1,000 Butler automation command runs per month per workspace, along with advanced checklists.

However, organizations are under no obligation and can still sign up for the free tier, which now features unlimited Power Ups as well as custom background and stickers. There are still some limits, however. There are only 10 boards per workspace and files in the "unlimited" storage are limited to 10 MB.

This is just the latest addition to Trello and follows on from the redesign it announced last February. That saw the addition of major features to help businesses better manage third-party integrations, as well as new customizable cards and the ability to access workloads beyond the core whiteboard view. The changes come after a year in which Trello saw its user base rise to 50 million sign-ups.

RingCentral Dials Up New Hybrid Workplace Functions

Meanwhile, Belmont, Calif.-based unified communications (UC) provider RingCentral added a range of new capabilities designed to address the growing emergence of hybrid workplaces.

When the COVID pandemic emerged last year, most UC providers had already set up their stall as the main providers of communications inside the enterprise as well as outside, with many offering some kind of video communication. However, when the major tech companies started upgrading their offerings, as Microsoft did with Teams and Google with Hangouts, and many organizations turned to flexible newcomers like Zoom, UC providers had to up their game.

RingCentral has always been one of the more reactive providers and these upgrades continue in that vein. Nat Natarajan, executive vice president of products and engineering at RingCentral, explained in a statement that digital workplaces are now moving from a pandemic which challenged organizations' basic ability to keep their people connected to a new era of organizational transformation that requires highly integrated immersive video with team messaging and robust phone capabilities.

To do that, it is adding new features, which it calls Add-ins, to connect with popular third-party applications and developer tools, from streamlining signatures to capturing engineering tasks, so customers can have an interactive app experience directly within their messaging app without toggling between multiple screens and applications.

Along with more than 250 apps in RingCentral’s App Gallery, there will be new Add-in apps from Akazio, Asana, BugSnag, DocuSign, Github, Hubspot, Jira, Keeper AI, Prodoscore, RingClone and Trello. The majority of the initial set of Add-ins will be built by RingCentral Labs.

It is also releasing the RingCentral for Microsoft Teams dialer which will bring enterprise-grade phone capabilities directly to the Microsoft Teams app with a new embedded dialer. With RingCentral’s softphone available within the Microsoft Teams app, customers will have the ability to seamlessly place calls, view call history, and view RingCentral contacts directly within the Teams app.

There will also be new immersive video enhancements aimed at improving in-meeting experiences, including:

  • New presentation modes that use artificial intelligence to make presentations more immersive and engaging.
  • A new “touch-up appearance” capability on the web, mobile and desktop app that adds polish to video.
  • Auto-framing that puts users as the center of attention no matter where they are on camera with a new AI-based capability.
  • Breakout rooms that help meeting hosts split up participants into different groups within the same meeting, enabling focused collaboration during in-person brainstorming and small group discussions.

Breakout rooms will be generally available in September 2021, while the new presentation modes, touch-up appearance capability and auto-framing will be available by the end of the year.

Toshiba Brings Cloud Support to Digital Workplace

Lake Forest, Calif.-based Toshiba America Business Solutions announced the release of the Elevate Sky (ES) platform which brings together a bunch of third-party cloud-enabled systems, software and services including print, document and printer fleet management, workflow and beyond.

Collectively, ES enables users to manage devices and content entirely in the cloud. While Toshiba has applied cloud technology across its entire portfolio for years, the ES platform aligns those capabilities within one platform with the goal of making the transition to cloud easier and more successful for dealers and end-users alike. It also enables seamless connectivity from on-premises hardware to the cloud to ensure secure interactions between physical documents and digital workflows.

There are three main offerings here:

  • Cloud-enabled systems: Toshiba multifunction printers enable workforces to share documents seamlessly and securely via cloud providers such as Google, Microsoft, Box and Dropbox.
  • Cloud-ready software: From output management to document management and workflow solutions, the software enables organizations to transform physical documents into digital cloud-based workflows from any location or device.
  • Cloud-based management: Cloud-based fleet tools allow businesses to centrally facilitate print and document environments regardless of location.

ES also simplifies the transition to cloud print and document environments via its Cloud Print Optimization Study service offering, which integrates decades of implementation insight with continuous delivery and deployment practices.

Leapwork Raises $62 Million to Jumpstart Low-Code Automation

Finally, Leapwork, the Copenhagen-based company whose core product is a low-code process automation platform, announced that it has raised $62 million in the largest ever Series B funding round in Danish history. The round was co-led by global investment firms KKR and Salesforce Ventures. The company's valuation now stands at $312 million.

Leapwork develops the Leapwork Automation Platform, an all-in-one productivity tool for automating repetitive processes from product testing to business verification. Users can build and execute automation cases with a flowchart-based designer.

In a statement, the company explained that it will use the money to fuel further growth and power product development. Specifically, it will use the funding to build up local teams and expertise across key markets, particularly Europe and North America. While it has already had considerable success in the US, it intends “to increase the headcount at its recently opened New York office significantly over the next 12 months.” It will also develop its new offices in Frankfurt, London, Paris, Amsterdam and Stockholm.

The company faces stiff competition in an intelligent process automation market that is expected to be worth $15.8 billion by 2025, according to KBV Research.

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