A few worrying financial reports just produced by Microsoft suggest at first sight that they may be losing their grip on the desktop. Coming in the same week as their announcement of the latest updates to their Office suite, you might think that the timing could not have focused any more attention on the product line. A closer look at the financial situation however reveals a slightly different story. If you look at their revenue, you’ll see that they have continued to increase at a steady four percent but their results were hit by two items that had been previously announced – one relating to funding upgrades for Windows 8 and the other related to its acquisition of aQuantive as part of its development of online services.
Microsoft and the Coming Year
You may be forgiven for thinking that this development of online services related to areas such as its entry into search engines and the development of its entertainment side through Xbox Live. However, this week Steve Ballmer was quick to point out that this coming year would be driven by both the imminent release of Windows 8 and by the latest version of Office. Office 365 is being touted as being important for the company as it takes into the territory of a subscription-based service that is mobile across both fixed machines and mobile devices.
Windows 8 will be shipping commercially at the tail end of October, while the new beta of Office 365 is already available so excitement is already rising to see how they will work together. This is particularly focused given how much work is being done to make the desktop and mobile versions of Windows 8 so interoperable.
Cloud-Enabled Office Working
The biggest and most noticeable difference in approach that Microsoft is bringing in is that the new version of Office is designed to integrate with Cloud services straight out of the box. At even the most basic level, there are storage allowances with Microsoft’s SkyDrive service and an inclusion of sixty minute’s free Skype credit.
Rather more importantly however, the tie of one license to one machine has been severed, with each license allowing for installation on up to five individual machines. The license is tied to the account of the person using the Office 365 service, rather than to the machine on which it is first installed. We anticipate that this will be of most use to organizations with mobile or hot-desking work forces.
Perhaps mindful of the irritation of customers when first faced with the Ribbon interface in their products, there are signs that an approach of slow evolution has been taken. There seem to be less radical changes and tweaks to the layouts of icons, ribbons and commands, which will encourage corporate customers. At the same time, support for the Metro and Touch interfaces that seem to be at the core of the new Windows 8 and mobile environments has been included without being enabled by default. Perhaps the only note of caution with regard to Office 365 is that as yet there is no non-Microsoft version available – though perhaps that will come if the Surface tablet is not as successful as they hope.
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