Yesterday Microsoft has introduced its new Office for the retail market. The new Office 365 Home Premium promises to deliver new capabilities for direct connection to social networks, SkyDrive and Skype to facilitate communication with family and friends. In addition, each user has his personal office anywhere. Use it on a PC, tablet or smartphone – and even on the Mac. The control is done in addition to keyboard by touch or pen input. But who thought that Microsoft offers its new office to the idea of the cloud as SaaS (software-as-a-service), is mistaken.
Cloud but not software-as-a-service
Office 365 Home Premium is not SaaS or a cloud service in the strict sense, because the office is not provided or used over the browser. (Although there are the completely free Office Web Apps, which have directly nothing to do with Office 365 Home Premium.) Microsoft gives the reason that not all Office functions can be operated performant in the browser. Instead, Microsoft is going an “interesting” way which is totally new. Microsoft Office becomes hybrid. Microsoft names this truly innovative technology as “Office streaming”. Through “Click 2 Run” an office suite can be installed in minutes. The interesting thing is that Microsoft initially installed the statistically most used basic functions, so you can quickly start working with Office. So you are able to work with Office already during the installation. In the background the rest is installed. The cluo: If a function is called, for example of Word, while Office is still in installation mode, this function is prioritized accurately and directly streamed. (Whether this type of installation, a user really needs is another question, but the idea is good.)
Cloud is just in the backend
Office 365 Home Premium syncs all personal settings and documents automatically to the cloud. Thus all data are available on all connected PCs. This also works on other PCs, if you log on there with a Microsoft account of hotmail.com, outlook.com or live.com. Based on the new technology “Office on Demand” the office is then streamed from the cloud for processing on the respective computer. “Office on Demand” installs Office on the local system in a virtual environment. When the session is closed, the virtual environment and the Office with all the data completely disappears from the system. Thus, Microsoft would ensure privacy when using on other computers.
Prices and goodies
Office 365 Home Premium includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and also Outlook, Access and Publisher. By subscribing a user automatically has to have the latest Office solution on the hard drive or on the road via”Office on Demand”. Other goodies: 60 minutes per month with Skype to landlines, additional 20 GB SkyDrive storage and use rights for up to five devices, laptops, tablets and smartphones, for both Windows and Mac environments.
- Office 365 Home Premium: 99 EUR per year
- Office 365 University: 79 EUR for 4 years
- Office Home & Student 2013 for 139 EUR
- Office Home & Business 2013 for 269 EUR
- Office Professional 2013 for 539 EUR
From 27 February 2013 also new Office 365 business services with new functions will be available, which will probably also include a SkyDrive Pro version.
The strategy is consistent with Windows 8
That Microsoft does not rely on SaaS is a little surprising, but it fits into the Windows 8 strategy. The applications are mostly held locally to ensure the speed and necessarily not have to rely on a data connection. All personal settings and documents, if the user wants, are stored in the cloud in order to ensure the location and platform independent access. This is ensured by “Office on Demand” and streaming.
Is the Microsoft Office suite still contemporary?
For me, the question arises, why Microsoft continued its commitment to this massive office suite and does not offer applications separately. I understand the strategy to give end users access to Outlook. Parents can e.g. organize the family. But who does that really? After Microsoft’s research probably some. So, reference customers were allowed to talk about their use cases during the launch event. I’m not so sure. If you look at the behavior of (young) users, who prefer to self assemble their productivity suite and do not want to get dictated by mom and dad. (The influence of their friends is much greater.) Dropbox for storage, Evernote for taking notes, Remember the Milk or Wunderlist for tasks, GMail or Outlook.com for e-mail are among the favorite candidates. The Cloud and Mobile apps make it possible.
Office is good, no question! But is this powerful solution still contemporary? Do users really want to get dictated what they should use or do they prefer to assemble their own solutions. Word and Excel are an added value for each personal productivity suite, but for that they must be offered separately, and I do not mean the Office Web Apps.