After too many years of less than newsworthy activities at Microsoft®, just about everyone close to the industry is beginning to take notice once again. This includes consumers, investors, software developers, large and small businesses, competitors, allies, and others. Pundits have predicted and requested that Steve Ballmer retire for years, while frequently ignoring his many accomplishments since they weren’t reflected in the stock price, or the seemingly groundbreaking impacts MS made in the past. The technology landscape has changed dramatically and many have questioned whether Microsoft® could adapt to the changes. Enter: Satya Nadella. Microsoft®’s new CEO deserves credit for some bold changes to the MS strategy, but it would be unfair and naïve to assume that so much was developed and decided solely during the two months since Mr. Nadella was appointed CEO.
People may debate the degree to which Satya Nadella’s influence may be a catalyst to recent success as opposed to how much may be fortunate timing, but few will debate the recent “wins” and perceived momentum the company is currently enjoying. There is no question that computer users, regardless of device, are rapidly migrating to cloud computing. The advantages of doing so are many, and while some users may be reluctant to entrust their data, photographs, music, etc. to “The Cloud”, the benefits of doing so will ultimately prevail and it’s a reality we must all get used to. Until recently, Microsoft® had been criticized for being late to the cloud computing revolution, but recent announcements and product releases have shown that MS may not only be a contender, but they may have the products and strategy to become a dominant player once again.
On June 14, 2013, Microsoft® announced the release of a version of Office® for the Apple® iPhone®. This wasn’t particularly noteworthy from a usability standpoint as few people will do much with Office® on a device as small as an iPhone®, but making a version of Office® available on an Apple® device other than a Mac was a major divergence from previous practices. The Office® for iPhone® availability stimulated renewed speculation for a version of Office® for the iPad®, however. On March 27, 2014, Satya Nadella appeared at his first press event as the Microsoft® CEO and announced Office 365™ for the iPad®. While tablets remain largely data consumption devices, the larger form factor makes them a useable device for Office®, even if only for display or minor editing. There are many messages and concessions which may be derived from this announcement, but Mr. Nadella addressed most of them by announcing a strategy whereby MS would make their (application) products available on any device, regardless of the hosting operating system. This is not a surrender of their previous exclusivity of Windows® but rather, an expansion of the MS market opportunities to markets in which MS may not otherwise compete.
Microsoft®’s Volume Licensing customers have been watching this closely as they struggle with the risk of abandoning their long term investment in MS Office® and entering into a new environment in which they must accommodate users personally owned devices such as tablets and smartphones.
The strategy of making MS applications available on more devices is welcome news to many IT departments as they now have a means to continue to use the familiar MS Office® while accommodating BYOD demand as well. Of course Microsoft® is well aware of this and they are aggressively trying to license Office 365™ on non-Windows® devices whenever possible. Office 365™ on the iPad® and iPhone® (and presumably Android™ and Chrome™ devices in the future) is free to users if they only want to view and present content, but they must subscribe to the entire Office 365™ Suite if they want to create or edit files.
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