While Microsoft continues to attack Google using its "Scroogled" campaign, the company also adds to its corporate user base at a steady, and perhaps increasing, rate. Ironically, less than a week after taking on Google Docs with not one, but two videos, Microsoft adds another major corporation to its Office 365 subscriber list, this time in the form of Telefónica, a major provider of integrated communication solutions.
Telefónica will add 130,000 employees to the Microsoft cloud solution, not only using Office 365, but also Yammer. "Over the past 18 months, we have built very strong foundations and are now ready to move to the cloud," said Adrian Steel, the European production hub lead and global director at Telefónica. Steel goes on to explain "Deploying Office 365 and Yammer is this next step in bringing our global workforce to the forefront of seamless communication and collaboration while still operating at the level of speed and execution we’re known for".
I subscribe to Office 365, as it is a great value -- for just under $10 per month I can install Office 2013 on up to five computers and even gain an additional 20GB of SkyDrive storage, taking my total to 45GB, thanks to being grandfathered into the 25GB free plan. The subscription even gives me a bit of free Skype that, perhaps, one day I shall actually use. All of this sounds great -- what more could you want? Well, how about a payment system that has customers in mind?
Over this past weekend, I had occasion to meet with the dysfunctional payment system that Microsoft has implemented. While I use many of the company's products, Office 365 Home Premium is my first occasion making monthly payments to the software giant. I am used to doing so with other services, such as Amazon.
Microsoft announced GeoFlow at the SharePoint conference in November 2012 and today rolled out a public preview of the 3-D mashup that combines the Office spreadsheet app Excel with Bing maps to allow you to plot geographic and temporal data visually.
Microsoft Research claims that GeoFlow "enables information workers to discover and share new insights from data through rich, 3-D data on a globe and fluid, cinematic guided tours—virtual cinematography moving through data". The app evolved out of the WorldWide Telescope project. "We built a gigantic virtual telescope, but to do so, we had to build an engine that could visualize the universe. If we can visualize the universe, we can visualize almost anything else", Microsoft Research principal researcher Curtis Wong explains.
Microsoft has been racking up contracts between Office 365 and businesses and governments recently, including eight new ones just announced in March. Now the company may have made its biggest score yet, partnering with world-wide power and productivity company ABB.
According to Andy Tidd, chief information officer at ABB Group, "Office 365 and Yammer will enable us to transform communication and collaboration among our employees, surfacing the best and most innovative ideas across the organization".
I am simply stunned by the ridiculous number of "Microsoft will be dead in four years" stories, following Gartner's grim PC forecast three days ago. I offered brief analysis then and promised something later, and this is it. Yesterday, colleague Alan Buckingham posted first: "Microsoft is nowhere near death's door" -- and he absolutely is right.
Throw a rock, and you can't miss a doom-and-gloom armchair analysis. Among the many are "Gartner: Microsoft is dead, Windows has expired, Office has ceased to be" (Computerworld); "How long can Microsoft go on like this?" (InfoWorld); "Apple's ultimate victory over Microsoft" (Motley Fool); and "Gartner may be too scared to say it, but the PC is dead" (ReadWrite). For the most part, all these armchair pundits are mistaken. Hugely.
Google news, at least for some of us, recently is grim (Reader goes bye-bye). In fact, I no longer trust the search company will keep anything, while my colleague Wayne Williams dumps Google for Microsoft. Trust is essential and Google has lost it for me. Microsoft, on the other hand, is on a roll, of sorts, with its Windows Blue "leak" and now another cloud win for its Office platform.
Microsoft announces eight more government offices have adopted its Office 365 platform, further rubbing salt into the Google Docs wound. At today's CIO Summit, the company welcomes aboard: metros Kansas City and Seattle; counties Dupage and King; colleges California State University Sacramento, University of Colorado Springs and University of Miami; and San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
Microsoft knows something about cool codenames, but little on how to name actual products. Whistler, Longhorn, Cougar, Blackcomb, Vienna and even Blue all sound great, resounding and promising, but that impression goes away fast when Microsoft baptizes its creations: XP, Vista or 7. The guy with the cool names went on a bathroom break, and all the boring suits took over.
That's the very same impression I get after reading about Microsoft's "Looking Back and Springing Ahead" blog post, which touts a number of apparently impressive achievements and future plans that the company has. Lo and behold, there's even a strategy in place to raise the pace for "updates and innovations" -- that's the "new normal across Microsoft", according to the company. But then I notice the Windows Blue reference.
Suddenly San Francisco is the hot developer ticket of the year. Say, can I just rent a room in your house for May and June? Today, Microsoft announced that BUILD 2013 will take place from June 26-28 at the Moscone Center in the city on the bay. Google will be there, same city and venue, with I/O from May 15-17. Apple usually holds its developer conference there in early June but hasn't announced. Big Three trio would be a helluva travel schedule for anyone flying in from anywhere else, particularly outside North America. Choose your event(s) wisely.
I just have to ask: Did Microsoft bump Google? Last year, I/O moved from its more typical May schedule to late June -- 27th-29th. Did Steve Ballmer and Company book early and lock in the dates? I don't really care, and it's not news, but speculation is delicious given the rivalry between these two companies.
Nearly six months ago, I voiced in on the Google Apps vs Office 365 debate and let it be known that (at the time) I fully believed Google Apps was the better platform in many respects. Fast forward to February 27, and Microsoft unveiled why waiting until the second (or third) try on a given product is usually a good bet. In all honesty, I think Microsoft has been on the right track with Office 365 for four to five months now, introducing quality features and fixing stability issues that plagued its reputation in the past.
I'll go so far as to say that the Office 365 ecosystem has been nothing short of respectable lately. My technology consulting company FireLogic steadily has recommended the suite as reliable alternative to Google Apps for some months now, and the results are extremely positive. Heavy Microsoft shops moving away from their legacy on-premise Exchange servers are itching for a new home, and the company seems to have a cloud of its own that is living up to even my stringent expectations.
We all know software vendors have vested interests that sway some of the decisions they make. When I heard that Microsoft was the real driving force behind a sly K-12 school privacy bill making the rounds in Massachusetts, I immediately smelled something rotten. While the public purpose behind the bill aims squarely at protecting student privacy, it's not hard to connect the dots back to Redmond, Wash.
Even though it's easy to see why Microsoft would prop up such a bill (to ease Google Apps' rise in the K-12 educational market), I question the long-term business sense of such dirty grandstanding. Microsoft's Office 365 for Education is already free for students and staff of any qualifying school district (just like Google Apps), and the suite is pretty darn good competition for Google on technical and functional merit alone. So what's the sense in playing dirty just to sign on a few more seats here or there based on misinformation?
Just in time for mid-term exams, or for the few students who actually work during Spring Break, Microsoft offers a suite -- ah, sweet -- deal on Office 365. Not coincidentally, the offer carries many, if not most, in higher ed through the end of the school year.
Microsoft's Jeff Meisner explains: "Starting today, college students in the U.S. can get three months of Office 365 University and 20 GB of SkyDrive storage for free".
If you surveyed the different directions K-12 school districts take in the United States, you'd find nothing less than a hodgepodge of technologies. The mess that was known as "Novell Hell" universally bows down to a diverse array of technologies including Active Directory, campus-wide Wi-Fi, iPads, Chromebooks, and a little bit of everything else in between. While it's reassuring that most districts I'm in discussions with are moving to cloud-based Google Apps or Office 365 for their email, the end-user device side of things is murkier.
I'm not going to call myself an expert in K-12 technology and policy, but seeing that I spent the last four years supporting and training users' technology needs at my former high school district, I've got good experience understanding the issues affecting teachers and students alike. After attending educational tech conferences year after year, the common consensus stands: everyone in education knows where they want to be, but the paths some of them take to get there are muddled with too much idealism and not enough realism.
See, if enough people complain and bloggers and journalists write enough misinformed, sensational stories, image-conscious Microsoft goes into public relations damage control. That's the case with Office 2013, which gets new licensing terms that grant you the right to move the software to another PC.
Under the old agreement, Microsoft used activation technology to bind the productivity suite to one computer. The software couldn't be transferred. The restriction comes with another nick, which isn't changed: With this version, Microsoft takes away generous multi-PC rights available with older versions. Like I expressed in late January, "Microsoft really doesn't want you to buy Office 2013" but subscribe with Office 365 instead. Nothing is changed, there. Today's concession is all PR blush.
Today Microsoft reminded rank-and-file customers that the productivity suite cloud isn't just an option for consumers. New Office 365 SKUs are now available, bringing the focus back to businesses. Kurt Delbene made the announcement, claiming that "Microsoft’s most complete Office cloud service to date has new features and offerings tailored to the needs and budgets of small, medium-size and large organizations".
The updates start with Office 365 ProPlus. This is surprisingly similar to the new home version. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access, though adds InfoPath, which is an app designed for creating, distributing, filling and submitting electronic forms, and Lync. Like its consumer brethren, ProPlus can be used on up to five devices. However, Delbene points out that "IT departments also get the controls they need, including the ability to run Office 365 ProPlus side-by-side with other versions of Office and tools to streamline and manage updates for their users". This will be available as a standalone offering for $144 per user for an annual subscription.
I'm not surprised about the weekend furor over changes to Office 2013 retail licensing terms. Gregg Keizer, writing for Computerworld, has done some of the best reporting on this topic. He deserves your pageviews, starting with this story. I can confirm what he writes, that the new End User License Agreement restricts usage to one PC and isn't transferrable. Whether or not Microsoft actually enforces the provision, or changes it, is another matter. We'll see.
What does perplex me: Why there is no backlash about other licensing term changes that are considerably more onerous and costly. Like I explained last month, "Microsoft really doesn't want you to buy Office 2013". That is the reason for all these licensing changes. The company wants consumers to purchase Office 365 instead.