Microsoft has introduced the latest versions of Office 365 in their attempt to move people to cloud computing. You might think that a company who has dominated the desktop so completely over the years would be looking to further consolidate that position. Some had even thought that their latest version of the productivity suite would be somehow streamlined and simplified in how it was delivered. This was prompted by the introduction of the Metro interface in Windows 8. Surely, some have said, Office would not be allowed to be presented as a legacy application. Well, the answer is that it seems to be somewhere in the middle, and this raises interesting questions about Microsoft’s strategies for traditional computers and touch-based computing.
Versions of Office 365
There have been four different versions announced of Office 365:
Office 365 Home Premium – This is the home-user version, and can be installed on up to five different computers.
Office 365 Small Business Premium – There are sufficient licenses for ten people, and again they can be installed on up to five computers.
Office 365 ProPlus – Aimed at larger businesses, this version is a twenty five person license but is otherwise the same as the Small Business version.
Office 365 Enterprise– The only difference between this and the ProPlus version is that it includes Exchange Online.
The Home Premium version contains Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, OneNote and Publisher and will allow subscribers to use 20GB of SkyDrive storage space. As a further drive towards online collaborations, it also includes sixty minutes per month Skype credit, which we think will be a significant draw for many people. The Small Business Premium version also includes Lync and InfoPath in its suite of software.
Office As A Service
While it will still be possible to buy Office off the shelf, the key difference of this new Microsoft strategy is to make it a subscription service. This, then, is where the lack of Metro interface comes into focus. The intention is that Office can be streamed onto any internet-connected PC running either Windows 7 or Windows 8. In this way, your preferences and settings will move from machine to machine with you – in many ways a refinement of the migrating desktop, but extended to cover any machine with a fast enough internet connection.
This effectively creates an On-Demand service that allows staff to use any machine and know that when they have logged out of the service that the application will be removed. As a subscription service it also means that upgrades or new editions can be automatically rolled out. The implications of this are far reaching for network administrators and CIOs, not least in the improved management of licenses for applications. It does raise questions about how to manage compatibility with third party legacy applications however. For companies who are already using cloud-based computing we suspect that this will not be such a pressing issue, but larger enterprises may have a more cautious approach to this latest offering and choose to stick to more traditional desktop software from Microsoft for now.
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