As a continuation of the management features of Windows 8 that I wrote last week, today's article is about how Office, Office 365, and SkyDrive fit into the equation. Office is obviously a huge part of business, and Office 365 is creeping into the collective consciousness. SkyDrive, which is mostly known as the cloud storage solution that isn't DropBox, Box, SugarSync, Google Drive, or ShareFile also factors into the discussion from both a consumer and enterprise perspective.
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On our podcast yesterday, we spent some time talking about how Brian has finally installed Office because even though is normal day to day activities only require Google Docs, the business requirements for Office are a pain in the neck to ignore. The two specific things that led him to install Office were the fact that we occasionally use pivot tables and Word comments in our jobs, and neither of those is supported by Google Docs. No doubt Microsoft is quite happy about this, as it forces people to use Windows to do their jobs (at least enough to buy a license).
The main underlying reason that we depend on Office, though, is that it's so ingrained into our business that we cannot live without it. No substitute has ever been good enough to make any significant inroads into the enterprise. In some ways that's great, because it means every company is speaking the same language, document-wise. In the past, all that we could really complain about was the licensing costs. Today, though, there are so many other form factors that can't run Office that it's becoming more troublesome than ever.
With the release of Surface tablets and Windows 8, Microsoft has also released a preview of Office 13. The fact that it's still not available seems to not bother them, but it is surely holding back companies looking to put the entire solution to use. Office 13 still requires Windows, but it's been changed a bit to run better on touch-based devices with the addition of "Touch Mode." Don't let this fool you, though. Touch Mode in Office 13 amounts to simply spreading the icons a bit further apart so that our fingers can hit the right one without inadvertently mashing some other function. There's no innovation like reworking of the interface to accommodate today's touch-based devices, though. I'd go so far as to argue that Office 13's touch mode isn't really much more useable than any other version of Office on a touch-based device. Furthermore, I'd be willing to bet that a talented application guru could probably tweak the UI of Office 2010 to look the same.
So I'm not a fan of Touch Mode, but I'm not an Office hater. Rather, I want to use Office on my tablet and phone (not all the time, but it'd be nice to have), and I dearly wish that Microsoft would release a version of Office for the mobile platforms that people are actually using (iOS and Android) rather than trying to get people to use their mobile platforms in order to get Office. That's the kind of heavy-handedness that drives innovation, and Microsoft should be careful. For the time being, treat Office as you would any other desktop application with all the same pros and cons as any other Windows app would have in a touch-based environment.
What about Office 365 and SkyDrive? There's a big push for using SkyDrive as part of Windows 8, not to mention Office 365. For the most part, we've looked past SkyDrive as a consumer solution not fit for the enterprise, but as Windows 8 proliferates we're bound to see it pop up more inside company walls. In fact, Microsoft released SkyDrive pro last year that adds centralized management to SkyDrive. In a way, it's a bit like SharePoint now, which is a good thing.
Office and Office 365 rely on both SharePoint and SkyDrive as the centralized data store for users, and this is the built-in solution that Microsoft provides for any, any, any access to data. This sounds like a great solution, but will it drive organizations to Windows 8? For the most part, the answer is "no." The reason for this is that all of these features don't require Windows 8 (and I am in no way saying they should require Windows 8, either). You can do all of this today with Windows 7, including all the management pieces I talked about in the previous article. In fact, considering everything I've written about so far, there are only two reasons that I can think of for organizations to care even one iota about Windows 8:
- If, for some reason, they have a need for .appx applications (TileWorld, Windows Store, Metro…whatever you want to call it)
- If they have to have offline access to their Windows applications on a tablet instead of a laptop
If either of those use cases arise, then Windows 8 is the natural conclusion, but if you have no TileWorld apps and no need for offline access to Windows apps on a tablet, there's no reason to make the switch. Companies that decide to rewrite their applications for TileWorld (such as British Telecom in the article that one of the commenters mentioned in the last article) are committing to Windows 8 on tablets, which is fine. There ARE use cases out there, but the vast majority of use cases in the enterprise today do not meet either of those two reasons, which is why we'll see a Vista-like adoption rate for Windows 8.
On top of that, there's only one time-based incentive to migrate OSes right now, and it's not because Windows 7 is expiring any time soon. Organizations are consumed with migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7, and Windows 7 doesn't reach end of life until January 2020. If you add the fact that you can do almost everything with Windows 7 that you can with Windows 8, plus the fact that you don't have to change it again until after Windows .Next is released, it's not shaping up well for worldwide enterprise adoption.