News Analysis: Office 365 is now live and the service, which finally brings Office deep into the cloud, is vastly important to Microsoft's future. If it is successful, it could help block the threat posed by Google Apps and prove that Microsoft is serious about becoming-at least in part-a cloud computing company.
On June 28,
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially announced the availability of Office 365
after a long beta period. Now both small businesses and larger enterprises will
be able to access the service after paying a per-user per-month fee. Those
prices range from $6 per user per month to $27 per user per month, depending on
the needs of the respective organization.
As expected, Microsoft made a big deal over the launch of Office 365. The
company rightfully sees the platform as a key component in its future plans,
and it's doing everything it can to build up the excitement and interest around
That excitement and interest cannot be underestimated. Office 365 is
integral to Microsoft's future. If the platform fails, it could set off a chain
reaction that could have profoundly damaging effects on the software giant in
the coming years. If it's a success, it could prove to be one of the most
important launches Microsoft has offered up in years.
Simply put, Office 365 is everything to Microsoft right now, and there's
good reason for that.
Read on to find out why
Office 365 is integral to Microsoft's future
1. It must prove Microsoft "gets" the cloud
During the June 28 event launching Office 365, Microsoft's CEO said that the
platform "is where Office meets the cloud." While some might call that comment
a throwaway, it says something about Microsoft and where the company is headed.
Office 365 is designed to prove that the software giant understands the cloud
and wants to be a key player there. If the platform is successful, it will
achieve that goal. But if it fails, Microsoft could be in for trouble. Office
365 must make the enterprise believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Microsoft
"gets" the cloud.
2. It's Microsoft's best answer to Google Apps for Business
Currently, companies that want to take advantage of cloud services can
invest in Google Apps for Business. That platform gives access to Gmail,
Google's Calendar platform and Google Docs. It costs $50 per user per year. By
launching Office 365, Microsoft has made it clear that it believes its new
platform is its best answer to Google Apps for Business. Now, the company must
hope the enterprise agrees.
3. It keeps the enterprise engaged
Speaking of the enterprise, it's important to note how integral that market
segment is to Microsoft. Over the years, it has been the corporate world that
has buoyed Microsoft's profits and ensured that the company stays a dominant
force in the software space. With Office 365, Microsoft is hoping to keep those
enterprise users engaged and buying its office productivity applications,
whether it's in the cloud or on premises. If that's not integral to Microsoft's
future, what is?
4. It doesn't focus on one enterprise segment
Microsoft's current flagship desktop software products, including Office and
Windows, appeal to companies of all sizes. And that has proved to be integral
to the company's success over the years. With Office 365, Microsoft is saying
that the new platform will similarly appeal to companies both big and small.
That's important. By not focusing on any single enterprise segment, Microsoft
will have a much better chance of getting Office 365 off the ground. At this
point, getting it off the ground means everything.