It has to be said: I’m pretty brutal when it comes to all things Microsoft. About the only thing I don’t give them a bunch of grief about is Skype. I absolutely HATE Microsoft’s licensing structure. I HATE their product layout. I HATE the amount of thought (or lack thereof) put into their products. Very little they have ever done has been intuitive, streamlined, pleasant to use or stimulating in any sort of useful fashion.
I think an analogy would best summarize this: It’s a bit like the American car industry. Americans can build all sorts of really wonderful, amazing things. And have done so. Yet for so many years, it was all built down to a price, the cheapest, semi-functional crap components were thrown in and yes, it got you from Point A to Point B, but it wasn’t anything Earth shattering. Or (frequently) spectacularly reliable. Certainly not innovative. Eggshell white paint was more innovative. And reliable.
Microsoft’s Office product has long been the productivity software of choice for the masses. With the notable exception of lawyers and anyone not in North America or a subject of the Queen. And most of us know how to use it. But still, it’s not remarkable in any sense; however, remarkable isn’t likely the word you’d generally use to describe a word processor or spreadsheet application. Functional, efficient, these tend to fit the bill. So credit where credit is due, Office was generally that. But then so was Open Office, iWork, WordPerfect, etc.
Our old friend, “The Cloud” comes into the story now and everything gradually changes. With the decentralized model, the expectation of data being available anywhere, anytime on anything, the paradigm shifts. As a natural progression, Google brings out Google Apps, there are several different apps you can get for your smart phones and tablets, and Microsoft rolls out Office 365. Tied to SkyDrive. My reaction was along the lines of, “Who really cares? Google Apps is free or really inexpensive, covers document storage and editing. And I really hate Microsoft.”
However, as I was looking for a download for a client this evening, I came across a new advertisement for Office 365. Apparently, Microsoft did something I never thought they’d do: They came up with a rather clever product integration and licensing scheme. Which I might actually think about recommending.
To take a step back, Office 2013 as a standalone product, for the Pro version, would set you back about $400. And this covers one computer. Now, from Dell, you could buy a whole computer for that. A low-end one, but still. If you’re the sort of person who employs around 20 people, the licensing fees are around $8,000. JUST FOR OFFICE. I can imagine, barring a really clever or extraordinarily liberal view of their licensing agreements, you have probably felt this backstabbing monopolistic pain from Microsoft before.
This is really where Office 365 comes into its own. For $70/year you can license one computer OR for $100 you can do 5. Microsoft’s product roll-out cycle seems to be about every 3 years. Which is about what your workstation PC shelf life is anyway. So, those same 20 computers, outfitted with the latest version of Office now run you $400 (or, for the expected life of the standalone Office version $1,200). See the appeal? This also covers Office 365 on tablets (iPad, Android or Windows Mobile) and 20 GB worth of storage on what they’re calling OneDrive (SkyDrive with a kick). All this acting like it’s (and it effectively is) installed locally, is really a very good idea. And I do encourage you to take this step.
Does this mean I’m likely do dump my Google Apps subscription in favor of Office 365? Not likely. Would I recommend it for a small business owner? Absolutely. There are so many options out there available to us as things continue to shift. And the shift is rapid.
Next up… An overview of cloud-based accounting. Is it right for you?
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