Office 365: What is it?
A couple of hours ago, Microsoft announced the beta release of Office 365, a cloud service that wraps its major offerings – Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office in a unified cloud environment.
Experts expected Microsoft to announce that it will upgrade the backend of BPOS to its 2010 range of products, and also include Office Web Apps, its much covered web version of MS Office. Since there was no mention of BPOS during the keynote it is unclear if Office 365 will replace MS’ Business Productivity Online Suite or be an additional product (Marie Jo Folie of ZDNet is of the opinion that BPOS goes).
The unexpected news is that Office 365 will also include Office Professional Plus, a desktop client which includes MS Office and some other collaboration features.
Crudely, Office 365 can be seen in the following terms
This keynote is probably the strongest endorsement of the cloud by Microsoft yet, where they called the cloud a “once in a generation technology shift” and “of the magnitude of a change to the graphical user interface.”
We were glad to see much of our messaging echoed in the keynote – that the cloud changes the rules of competition by enabling small companies with the same technologies as enterprises; it allows cost savings of up to 50%; that small businesses need technologies that are easy to use and quick to deploy, and so on.
Microsoft would have you believe that it was all part of its “vision”, but the truth is, market pressures have forced it to give the cloud a central position in its strategy. Cloud computing for businesses was made mainstream by Google Apps in the last couple of years, but confidence was built slowly and steadily over years by early cloud players like SalesForce and HyperOffice.
Where HyperOffice fits in
We are more than glad when a large company like Microsoft endorses and evangelizes the cloud or software-as-a-service market. It validates the market, and we have to exert less effort trying to convince users about the benefits of the cloud, and can focus on telling them about what differentiates our product from others.
We know we placed our bets right – the online collaboration software market, which apart from HyperOffice, only had one or two other players in the early 2000s, and is now the most exciting market in business IT.
This news also further validates the integrated online messaging and collaboration software market, which breaks down the traditional barriers between “communication” and “collaboration” applications. We have been offering “integrated” solution for years now, and Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS have made this approach mainstream in the last couple of years.
We do not have the grand plans of Microsoft and Google, of swamping the enterprise market with cloud solutions. We are confident that HyperOffice brings one of the best solutions for our target niche – small and mid sized businesses – and of our ability to continue to operate profitably in that niche.
Microsoft BPOS, and its possible new avatar, Office 365, are ultimately refurbishments of its enterprise focused technologies, and retain some of the complexity. Companies with IT resources will find themselves best positioned to make advantage of these solutions.
HyperOffice, on the other hand, being a small business ourselves, we are more in touch with the needs of growing companies. SMBs need solutions they can implement without the benefit of in house IT expertise, and require strong customer support. HyperOffice brings users a lot more functionality “out of the box” than Office 365, developed over years of real experience with SMBs. Moreover, we bring a strong customer service ethic, and a service package (free training and phone support), which Microsoft cannot replicate with its network of partners.