Why Office 2010 Needs Both Mobility And The Cloud

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Microsoft’s Office 2010 might finally lose dominance of productivity software, says Nicholas Kolakowski, for two reasons: the cloud and mobility

Microsoft currently owns around 94 percent of the productivity software market. So why, when it launched Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 this week, did it make such a big deal out of it?

Microsoft unveiled the new versions to business customers on the “Saturday Night Live” set at NBC Studios this week. The presentation by Microsoft business division president Stephen Elop exposed possible insecurities over the position of Office in a rapidly changing world.

What if no-one upgrades…?

Based on Elop’s talk to a crowd of media representatives, analysts and customers, it seems as if Microsoft’s biggest fear is that customers will choose to stick with older versions of their productivity software in lieu of upgrading. Elop kept highlighting Office 2010’s supposed ability to “reduce costs” and impel “significant gains in productivity,” which is meant to appeal to businesses the IT budgets of which underwent a severe whacking in the recent economic unpleasantness.

Whether or not those businesses will choose to upgrade their productivity software in the short term is an open question. I’ve spoken to a number of analysts over the past few days who feel that business uptake may be on the slow side for the new version of Office [UK Editor Peter Judge adds – despite extensive demonstrations snd tests, I’ve yet to feel the need of any Office version more recent than 2003]

That issue it may be eclipsed in Microsoft’s world-view by another: the cloud.

… or they all go to the cloud?

Google Apps holds a relatively small share of the productivity software market compared with Office, but it seems as if more people are giving cloud-based applications a serious look. Microsoft’s short-term attempt at curbing that threat involves offering stripped-down version of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint to Windows Live subscribers for free via their browsers.

But Microsoft’s vision for Office and the cloud also involves a substantial mobile component, which was highlighted during the presentation. “Our employees expect the same technologies at home as in the marketplace,” Elop said at one point. “They want all of those technologies to work very well and seamlessly together.”

Sometime later, Microsoft demonstrated the Office hub on its upcoming Windows Phone 7 smartphone operating system, highlighting how it syncs with a user’s other devices to deliver that “seamless” experience across various platforms. Hubs, for those joining the programme late, are Microsoft’s attempt to differentiate its mobile offering from the iPhone OS or Android; they aggregate Web content and applications by subject (such as “Office” or “Games”) as opposed to offering the user page after page of individual apps.

And how about mobile?

I couldn’t take images of Windows Phone 7’s Office hub during the actual presentation, because apparently NBC Studios has some rule where anyone whipping out a camera is immediately shot, but I’ve snapped an image or two of it before (left).

The mobile aspect of Office definitely seems to fit within the larger “three screens and a cloud” strategy advocated by Microsoft. Whether or not the Office hub (or similar Office functionality being offered through Nokia phones) proves robust enough for people to conduct work through it while on the move, it represents Microsoft’s attempt to stay ahead of the general evolution from the desktop to the cloud. Whether it can succeed is a multibillion-dollar question.

From Nicholas Kolakowski’s Microsoft Watch blog


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