Microsoft boldly step backwards into cloud computing

9 December 2008

Remember when Microsoft used to be at the cutting edge of computing? Now it feels like they're thrashing about with a butter knife. Today's news just seems to reinforce the fact that the Gates empire is a former shadow of itself; it still may dominate home computing, but where is the innovation coming from?

The future. Yesterday.

Microsoft has announced that its suite of office programmes - Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc - will be made available to use online from next year. Yes, Microsoft finally woken up to cloud computing - the development of internet based computing - and realised that a 10 year business plan based on physical sales of software is hardly watertight. Soon a business buying 100 PCs will be able to access applications over the office broadband; if Microsoft aren't part of that revolution, they're as good as dead.

Stephen Elop, head of Microsoft's business division told Reuters:

"We expect fully that the full range of Office utilities, from the most advanced to simpler lightweight versions, will be available with a range of options: ad-funded, subscriptions-based, traditional licensing fees, and so forth."

In fact, Microsoft are very late to the party. The Google Apps suite has been available to users for nearly two years, and through acquisitions, Google has been involved in web-based applications for nearly three. Zoho offers a far more extensive portfolio of web-based programmes than Microsoft, while Sliderocket has developed a loyal userbase for its PowerPointesque ability to create 2.0 presentations.

Regardless, awareness of Microsoft's brand will no doubt ensure the transition to the cloud is a success, while there'll be plenty of people who continue to buy the software, because of tradition, an old charter or something. They'll still behind the game though, and releasing crappy operating systems isn't going to help them catch up.

[BBC]

7 comments

  • Alex
    Have you ever actually used a Web-based office suite? Compared to the offline versions they suuuuck. And what if the office broadband goes down? It's bad enough at the moment, but suddenly rather than just losing email, your entire office can do effectively nothing. Sure they're cheap/free, but you really do get what you pay for and it's the reason hardly any businesses have switched to the online model for productivity apps yet. So to say MS are behind the curve on this isn't really right in my eyes - you could equally say they are waiting to do it right. Apple have been "behind the curve" on a load of their past features, in that others came up with the idea and took the initial hit of the learning curve before they added their own spin, and it hasn't done them any harm.
  • Paul Nikkel EDITOR
    The "cloud" office suites either have offline abilities or they are coming soon. With Zoho for example it will work offline in your browser. You don't need to be online to use it. Google Docs also works this way. They are both enabled by Google Gears. Read here for more info: http://googledocs.blogspot.com/2008/03/bringing-cloud-with-you.html
  • Paul Nikkel EDITOR
    Oh I agree that it is probably not yet a business app though but realistically most of the people using Office are probably only using the basic features that the online free versions do very well.
  • Tracy F.
    Thanks for including SlideRocket! We hope you are one of those loyal users... We definitely agree that being able to access your presentations anywhere is a huge step forward from being limited to your desktop. Not to mention the ability to collaborate effectively, share your presentations, and measure how they are being seen/used, all of which you can get with a web app. Just an FYI, we also have an offline player so that you are not limited to needing an internet connection. This is definitely an exciting time to be in this space - we are having tons of fun. Please let us know any feedback you have for us! Best place is here: http://sliderocket.uservoice.com/. Take care, Tracy SlideRocket
  • Nat
    SlideRocket has a desktop player that let's you download and synchronize your online presentations, available today. We'll have an offline editor in 2009 that will let you create presentations on the desktop then sync back to your online account so you'll have the best of both online and offline worlds. I agree that many online apps are very basic or perform poorly which is part of the reason we decided to focus on presentations (creation, management, collaboration, publishing, measuring and marketplace) and go beyond the functionality offered by our desktop competitors all integrated into one complete package instead of a stack of software you have to integrate. Even better, we're available today so you can start making great presentations as soon as you sign up. Well, you can see why I work at SlideRocket and not Microsoft :-)
  • Tom
    shutdown darn I guess this website is a little more sophisticated than google's android.
  • Mike H.
    What's this internet cobblers? And what's wrong with 3.11? That game looks dope, check the graphics!

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