On Monday, July 16th, Microsoft made the next version of Office available for public preview. Dubbed Office 365 Preview, it introduces new versions of the desktop apps, new subscription plans in the Office 365 stable of services and most crucially, enables technology to literally serve Office as a service.
One of the features introduced in Office 2010 was “click-to-run” which allowed a customer to click on an installer on the web and install the product on demand. Microsoft has taken that one step further, and improved it in such a way that the “on demand” version of using the software is in fact the default. Of course you can get it fully locally installed, but there are many advantages of running it on demand.
First of all, by running it on demand, you can take advantage of roaming profiles which let a user sign in to any PC and use exactly the products they care about and most importantly, have all their application settings show up automatically.
Secondly, because only the applications you care about are installed, it uses lesser space on the PC. This is a huge benefit these days where thin and light PCs (not to mention, tablets and phones) tend to have smaller SSDs than earlier PCs with large hard drives.
Finally, this feature will come in handy when we get used to changing devices more frequently than we typically do with PCs. Imagine trying to get a new PC in the state you typically want – it involves installing Office and applying various patches. This won’t be needed anymore. You refresh your PC and simply go to your Office 365 account to get the latest version of the applications you care about. A side benefit of this (and perhaps, it is a sign of things to come that the product is actually referred to as Office even though the marketing term will be Office 2013) is that customers will enjoy the latest and the greatest versions of the software any time they use the applications.
All these are user-facing benefits of an on demand Office. There is a huge benefit for Microsoft too. They can finally get hundreds of millions of customers’ credit cards on file, and ensure a steady stream of revenue for Office as opposed to getting a chunk of revenue at once. With the Office Store coming soon, where apps will be available to supplement/enhance Office usage, having those credit cards on file will help in luring developers.
Office is already a huge cash cow for Microsoft, and with all these benefits for users as well as Microsoft with the on demand features, the next version promises to continue its streak.