Office 365: Fewer customers than Microsoft thinks

The cloud is about doing work any time, anywhere; Office 365 is about doing work only on a PC

Microsoft Office 365 is not getting as much play as I thought, other than the reality check by my colleague Galen Gruman that this cloud service works well on Windows but not on other platforms, including mobile. Oh Microsoft, we thought you changed.

There will be plenty of hype over the next few weeks, so let's not tread that ground. Instead let's try to understand what this means for the enterprise market -- that is, whether you should make the move.

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The value of Office 365 really depends on who you are. If you're an existing Windows and Office user, you'll find that migration path easy and the user experience to be much the same. Those who are sold on Office will be sold on Office 365 -- apart from customers who don't relish the idea of using a cloud-based system for calendaring, email, and document processing. In many instances, people don't mind keeping that info on their own hard disks. In fact, much of the existing Office user base is not yet sold on the cloud.

As a result, the market for this cloud service could be more limited than many people think, and Microsoft may be missing the true value of the cloud.

Those moving to cloud-based systems, even productivity applications, are doing so because of the pervasiveness of the cloud. We can use it everywhere and anywhere, replicating the same environment and file systems from place to place. According to Gruman's article, Microsoft seems to miss that understanding.

Moreover, those moving to cloud computing are typically innovators and early adopters. To my point above, that's an audience Microsoft no longer has. Those who consider themselves innovative around the use of new technology, such as the cloud, have moved away from Microsoft and Windows products in the recent past, myself included.

Finally, the enterprise market: Many people consider Office to have reached feature saturation long ago and don't look forward to upgrades anymore. For them to go Office 365, they will need a more compelling reason other than the fact it's on the cloud.

Don't get me wrong; I think Office 365 will be a compelling cloud-based service, in many respects better than the existing options such as Google Apps. However, Microsoft has taken a very narrow view of this market, so the market will do the same of Microsoft.

This article, "Office 365: Fewer customers than Microsoft thinks," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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