Microsoft Moves to SaaS with Office 2013

Also, having been involved with hosted services and cloud services, I have seen how vendors, customers and partners have all worked hard to deliver simple solutions to end users while maintaining levels of integration that make many sysadmins lose sleep at night. In addition, having seen this landscape evolve over the past decade, it’s truly refreshing to see a traditionally on-premise software vendor like Microsoft not only shout about the cloud, but actually surface a strategy that makes broad-based cloud computing part of everyday software consumption.

Having been at Mimecast for many years championing the benefits of the Software as a Service model to customers, prospects and partners alike, I am well versed in the benefits that this model poses to organizations of every shape and size.

With Steve Ballmer’s announcement yesterday, came the first real view of what Microsoft’s long term strategy is. We all know that Microsoft is a huge company with massive amounts of resource available to do just about anything they want, but yesterday we saw for the first time just how long it takes to change direction for a company of this size.

When Microsoft announced BPOS, it was generally regarded as a tentative attempt to show presence in the cloud/SaaS market and was experience across devices and the touch user experience (and a secure environment).

More of an attempt to deflect much of the criticism that was levelled towards Redmond at the time. That evolved and became Office 365 which was a much better service offering but it had some poor choices in terms of its distribution model. Last week in Toronto, Microsoft announced that Office 365 Open licenses would be available for delivery through its vast channel and its partner ecosystem breathed a collective sigh of relief and committed to more active promotion of the service.

For me, all the build-up around Windows 8 has always been about two key (and one key but not promoted) things: Ubiquitous With yesterday’s announcement of Office 2013 preview, we can now see how integral that ubiquitous experience is to the long term plan, which appears to be - “get everything, get it now!”

Ok, what do I mean by that?

Well it’s simple really, with Office 2013 defaulting to storing files on SkyDrive, apps written for Office being available to users no matter what device they are connecting from or even if they are using the web-based versions of the applications and Microsoft’s massively increased push to move users into the cloud for its three biggest server platforms (Office 365 for SharePoint and Exchange and Azure SQL for DB), it now makes more sense than ever to start sipping the Microsoft Kool-Aid.

I mean let’s face it, they may not have invented any of these wheels but they have done a damned fine job of moulding and shaping them to what people are looking for.

Back to my title – Microsoft moves to SaaS with Office 2013 – and a little more on the service side of things.

Microsoft has said quite clearly that it wants to make adoption and upgrades far simpler for its customers and partners. Buy an Office 2013 license and it will provide over the wire upgrades because you are effectively acquiring the software as a service, whether you choose to deploy the full rich client of use the web-based clients. This means that you will always be running the latest version of Office.

Add to this that it only requires a single license for a user, rather than forcing a license per device, and you have a winning success story for people to seriously consider moving their computing across to the Microsoft way.

Microsoft laptop, tablet and phone (X-Box too…?), all using a common authentication mechanism to ensure ubiquitous experience across all three devices as well as pure play internet-based access to all of your apps and docs when you don’t have one of your own devices handy? It’s a compelling mix of cloud and client side applications delivering service to users where and when they want it.

Sounds like utopia to me.

Well it would, for years Mimecast has been working on the premise that customer choice in cloud adoption was an important part of allowing them to make the move towards cloud without it ever having to be a binary decision of cloud vs. on-prem.

In the coming months we are sure to see more features surfacing that will extend on this message, particularly in the server space but it all boils down to Microsoft finally flexing its muscle and demanding that both business and consumers take notice of its offerings and stop settling for second best.