Trust Microsoft to make a big show to announce . . . well, not much, really. It's called Microsoft Office 365 and it's essentially an updated version of Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS). Office 365 will include subscription versions (that is: cloud) of Exchange Server, SharePoint, and Lync (formerly Office Communications Server—OCS). The one thing it adds over BPOS, as noted in the company's announcement this morning via webcast, is Office Web Apps.
There's a big push for all of these services to operate seamlessly across the desktop, on any browser, and on mobile devices. Naturally, that's a great promise, and I truly hope Microsoft will be able to deliver. What this type of integration offers—both the end-user and device experience as well as the server and application combinations—is a possibly transformative business model. We've heard about "anywhere access" for quite a while now; will this be the step that makes it a reality?
On the new Microsoft Office 365 Blog, Betsy Frost Webb wrote, "It’s a game changer for Microsoft, and it’s going to be a game changer for businesses of all sizes." Microsoft's Kurt DelBene, president of the Office division, said during the webcast this morning, "Just a few years ago our customers were asking us, should they move to the cloud? That conversation has dramatically changed in just a few years. They're now asking us when should they move to the cloud, and what should they move to the cloud moving forward? So we're unequivocally at a pivot point in the adoption of cloud services."
I don't know—it's all starting to sound like the same hype we always get from these guys, isn't it? And not just Microsoft, but everyone promoting cloud computing. I'm still not convinced businesses—and certainly not IT departments—are prepared to jump into the cloud wholeheartedly, however. I say this even though what Microsoft is offering with Office 365 is really quite impressive, and has attractive and variable pricing options for small businesses and enterprises. As DelBene said, "We chose the name Office 365 because nothing says productivity better than Office and customers will get the best of everything we know about productivity 365 days a year."
You can find all the details about Office 365 on Microsoft's website and sign up for the beta (space is limited). A couple of key things to note: First, the final online product, according to the company press release, "will be available worldwide next year." Gee, could you vague that up any? Also, Microsoft still hasn't managed to include versions of Exchange Server 2010 or SharePoint 2010 as part of its hosted offerings—even while this morning's event touted the fact that they were developed specifically with the cloud in mind. Makes you wonder.
With Office 365, "productivity" is the big word Microsoft is pushing. Speaking at the event this morning, Microsoft senior vice president Chris Capossela said, "We feel like just as Office defined productivity on the desktop, Office 365 will define productivity in the cloud. And we couldn't be more excited about it."
But are you excited about it, IT pros?