Office 365 - Just What the Mobile Doctor Ordered?
By Tony Rizzo, Editor in Chief
Well, another week and yet another Mobile Enterprise perspective on Microsoft and its mobile adventures. It's unavoidable - Microsoft continues to deliver on a mobile promise that is beginning to look real, solid, saleable (if it can't be sold it isn't much of a mobile offering), and - it must be said - user friendly for both business and consumer. Yesterday the company formally introduced Office 13/Office 365, and it's clear to us that Microsoft continues to prove it has done its mobile homework.
There is a lot of chatter out there that Microsoft is playing catch up with Google Docs, that it is moving to Office 365 and cloud-based services by being pulled unwillingly into a SaaS Office model. Yes, there is some modicum of truth to this - some companies have moved from Office over to Google Docs, as have numerous consumers. But for Microsoft it really isn't about competing with Google Docs. It is, at long last, about moving Microsoft itself into the 21st century - and the truth of the matter is that the company has done a good job of positioning itself to do just that.
Somewhere inside of Microsoft, at some point in the not too far distant past, some light bulb went on somewhere and the company finally got it - about cloud services, about software as a service, and especially about mobility - which is the glue that ties everything together. Microsoft was late - really enormously late - to the mobile party, but now that it's arrived, the company looks to some of us as a new and revitalized player - one that the rest of the mobile party crowd will ultimately decide to want to seriously party with once again.
One of the problems with Google Docs is that it is annoyingly limited. Especially for those of us who use Office a great deal - and especially for those of us who have become accustomed to the many features the entire Office suite delivers on - true, we don't use them often, but when you need one of those features, especially one of the more obscure features...you've got to have those features available.
That is what drives Office not only within the enterprise but for huge numbers of consumers and prosumers as well. Google Docs is a toy in comparison. Then there are those of us who also hate Google Docs' primitive user interface.
And yet, since Google Docs is accessible anywhere and anytime, there was something to be said for it. No longer. The new Office 13/Office 365 is not only cloud-savvy and completely portable, but it comes with a wealth of new - and in some cases outstanding - user interface features that have been extremely well thought out, and recast as really nicely integrated Windows 8/Metro UI (or "Windows 8 Style") apps.
It isn't our goal here, however, to even remotely attempt to provide an Office 13 feature review.
What is hugely important at the moment is that Office 13/Office 365 has been rebuilt with mobility squarely in mind. Windows 8, Windows RT, full touch and gesture capabilities and support, stylus support, and a full range of device support - whether using a tablet (Microsoft conducted the majority of its demo yesterday using a Samsung Windows 8 tablet), a laptop/Ultrabook, a smartphone, or an 80 inch touch screen, all of it works seamlessly across any of these devices in any mix and match manner that any set of users may be utilizing.
It isn't a case of simply porting the "old stuff" to new places. There is a vivid sense - as there is with the Surface tablets - of Microsoft finally emerging from the dark and understanding what true mobility is about.
We should note that Steve Ballmer actually used the word "magical" in his presentation yesterday (he also went so far as to say "beyond magical") in reference to the new Office. True, he didn't really even come close to pulling it off, but aside from Ballmer delivering the line, it does adequately describe that Microsoft has arrived at a new point in its existence. What we've experienced of the new UI and feature set feels right to us - right for mobile settings and right for continuing to be fans of Office in today's mobile world.
Ballmer made it clear that the "new modern office" (at least "new" from Microsoft's perspective - many of us got the message a few years back) is about SaaS and about mobility and about having access to every possible piece of content one needs. But it is also about integrating these capabilities across an interface that is highly mobile-efficient and completely mobile device-friendly.
The following sums up the key components that Microsoft is now bringing together relative to operating in a modern mobile world:
Social-based collaboration will play a significant role going forward, and we will finally see how Skype fits into all of it. The recently completed Yammer acquisition will obviously drive a great deal of social collaboration capability, but for the immediate future there is already enough there - not only in the new Office but especially in SharePoint, to be able to finally have tangible evidence that Microsoft is delivering on the mobile promise.
Microsoft's Office Website has usable demonstrations of some of the capabilities we have referenced here. It is worth checking them out.
For now, Microsoft continues to demonstrate that the soon to be unleashed Windows 8 world will give many if not most enterprises something that they will not be able to avoid thinking about. For those of us who have already made the transition from earlier versions of Office to Office 2010, Office 2013/Office 365 already looks like a major mobile leap forward. For the huge numbers of users and enterprises who are clinging to older versions of Office the changes will be nothing short of transformational.
There is much yet to prove...but there is a strong foundation emerging that points to Microsoft succeeding over the next few years.It is a very interesting and very likely exciting ride - and mobile ride - we will be in for in a few short months. The ride started for real with the somewhat surprising Surface Tablets announcement
. It continued with the Windows Phone 8 annoucements
. Now we have Office 365. The actual release of Windows 8 will brng the ride to its peak.