In an announcement from San Francisco today, Microsoft provided more details about next year’s planned revamp of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) cloud-based collaboration suite. Gartner’s official take on this announcement can be found here, but here are some of my thoughts.
The new brand name is the most striking part of this announcement. BPOS never really tripped off the tongue and always kind of felt like a code name. Office 365 as a major Microsoft brand will be a surprise to a certain UK office supply company, but will quickly become associated with Microsoft’s cloud collaboration suite. I actually was surprised at how Microsoft was able to keep this new brand name a pretty good secret until the unveiling. I was also surprised that the web site was not scheduled to be available until 3 1/2 hours after the launch event, leading to avoidable snarky Twitter comments.
Inevitably, there will be fun poked at the new moniker. Do I really want to be in the Office 365 days per year? What happens in leap years (Microsoft gives you a day off once every four years). I honestly don’t think that it would be possible to come up with anything that would not have some kind of downside, and it certainly is better than BPOS or some other anodyne acronym.
The second big news is that in addition to Exchange, SharePoint and Lync (OCS), Office 365 will also include Microsoft Office applications, delivered either in the browser or running from the desktop. While Microsoft naturally emphasizes the productivity benefits integration with the rest of the products will bring, many corporate buyers will be hunched over their calculators figuring out how the new possibilities will affect what they pay for Microsoft Office products. With prices ranging from $2 to $27 per user per month, it won’t be simple to do the maths.
The most important indication from this announcement would be if Microsoft’s design focus is really shifting to the Cloud. Yes, this has been the stated direction for some time, but it has been hard to defend when new functionality that was available in on premise products a year ago won’t make it to the cloud products until sometime next year. If Microsoft starts introducing new functionality first in its cloud products, that will be a major step towards proving that Microsoft is “all in” for the cloud, as Steve Ballmer keeps saying.