Microsoft puts Office into the Computing Cloud in bid to see off Google threat

28th June 2011

Here is the Guardian technology software blogger Andrew Gradwell reviews the launch and has some warm words for it.

While some have suggested the launch is merely a rebrand from the less excitingly titled Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), the Guardian's technology correspondent believes that the inclusion of Office is hugely significant.

He also suggests many businesses should be very interested in adopting the technology. He writes: "Okay, it might not be that dramatic, but when future upgrades happen – and the cost of new servers and server maintenance don't rear their ugly heads – it will have a big effect on costs and continuity. Old servers can be a dangerous game if not backed up, as massive data loss can be terminal – especially to small businesses."

The Guardian also cites another big improvement – the ability to subscribe with fewer than five users, which it says "puts cost-conscious small businesses in a position to pay a fair price and have a system that can grow with them. A subscription to Office, for instance, can save a startup company thousands on initial software expenditure, meaning they can pay as they start to make money rather than at start up."

That is a pretty good review. But what are the reasons for Microsoft taking to the clouds to take on Google and Apple?

The New York Times is convinced it has found an important example, which it believes has concentrated minds at Google. Intercontinental Hotels group is moving its account involving some 25,000 staff from Microsoft Office to Google's rival cloud based business service.

The article also neatly sums up Google's business dilemma.

"Microsoft's long-awaited move, analysts say, is a studiously crafted bet, including various offerings at different prices. They are not sure whether it represents wishful thinking or a workable strategy. Microsoft's plan is to embrace the demand for cloud-based tools for office workers, which promise to be less costly for companies than conventional software, and yet avoid cannibalizing a business that is its biggest single money-maker."

Google is not known for taking things lying down. In a blog posting, Google Apps product manager Shan Sinha claims to list 365 reasons why Google is better but here US trade site Information Week interprets this and reduces it to four main reasons.

Sinha says Office 365 is designed for individuals while Google Apps is designed for teams, that Office 365 works best on Windows devises and Google works on just about everything, he says Google Apps is cheaper by a dollar a month and that Google Apps works almost all of the time, while Microsoft has planned downtime.

Microsoft's share price performance has been under scrutiny recently. It has long been behind Apple in terms of market cap but now its old rival IBM has overtaken it too as reporters here on TVNZ.

This is perhaps the most telling paragraph from the New Zealand website's report.

"An investor putting $US100,000 into both stocks 10 years ago would now have about $US143,000 in IBM stock and about $US69,000 in Microsoft stock."

Microsoft shares rose very slightly this morning having fallen back yesterday and it looks like the stock market will take a while longer to make up its mind as Yahoo Finance shows.  

Some commenters are not convinced. On the Guardian technology site MurrayPresent writes: "The nails in the Microsoft coffin just keep coming. I'd place this foray into "the cloud" as a nail right next to the Nokindows nail, which of course is right next to the Bing nail, which of course is just below the Zune nail."

More information:

This is Microsoft's own centre for discussing cloud computing

Information Week also gives a point by point comparison for businesses here.

Here Business Insider reports on the launch of a cloud computing ETF but investors should note any such investment would be right at the top of the risk scale and only invest money you can afford to lose or as part of a portfolio.

US blog site ZDnet also considers the impact on the cloud on businesses from consultancy Forrester.

To receive our free weekly email sign up here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *