Thursday, November 08, 2012

Office 2013 and the Cloud

Can I say, right up front, that I have no issue personally nor professionally with hosted solutions (having recently been re-branded as "Cloud Solutions") per se - after all we've been offering our own hosted solutions to clients for years and supporting other vendors' hosted products for longer.  So, in case anyone wants to think that I'm a nephophobic, well, that's simply not the case.

What I am is a realist.

Sometimes, hosted (aka Cloud) solutions are appropriate to a client's needs.  Sometimes they are not.  There's no "one size fits all" when it comes to the cloud just like there's no "one size fits all" then it comes to on-premises solutions, SmartPhones, hats nor even underwear - you want to (and really need to) find what's the most appropriate fit, customize that where possible/advantageous, and end up with a result that works well for your business needs.  See what I did there? :)

See, I'm a realist.

Do I have a problem with the perpetual license + annual maintenance model for software?  Nope.  This is quite often the way Line of Business (LOB) Application software is sold and is the way much of it has been sold for many years.  Where this is particularly handy is when a client has changed from one LOB application to another and still needs to access their old data.  The perpetual license allows them to (at least) read their old data using the product version that was installed at the time the License (well, likely the Maintenance) expired.

Do I have a problem with a subscription/leasing model for software?  Nope.  Sure, you never get a perpetual license this way, which means that you may well have issues accessing older data once you stop subscribing to the application, but if you know this up front and if you either have imported all the data into a new application or have some other way to access any old data you may need, then this works around that issue.  The vendor providing the cloud solution or the company providing the server and network resources to this vendor *may* well up and vanish, resulting in your inability to access/export your data to another product, but reliable backups and (obviously) choosing a reliable cloud vendor will go a long way towards alleviating these concerns.

Do I have a problem with Office 365?  Nope.  I definitely have issues with being forced to have to buy it through Telstra because of the inherent inefficiencies; monopolised, overpriced channel and general lack of clue that Telstra brings to the product, but I have no issues with the Microsoft side of Office 365 at all - their cloud/subscription offering is suitable in certain circumstances.

What I do have an issue with, regarding the soon to hit the market Office 365, is how Microsoft is stacking the deck whilst still being unable to make simple things happen.  They have increased pricing (in the US, and therefore no doubt also here in Australia when pricing is eventually released) by between 10% and 17% across the board for regular per-device products and at the same time changing the licensing terms and conditions to remove any multi-install rights from these regular licenses.  They have also introduced a number of new Office 365 options for subscription purchases - Office 365 Office Home Premium and Office 365 Small Business Premium.

Now, as we've not yet been given any Australian list pricing, I can only compare the US list pricing and then translate these with the regular 40% or so Microsoft Australia Tax that we pay here.  Actually, in researching this post, I have come across the following ComputerWorld article that outlines the US pricing quite well and pretty much mirrors my thoughts and objections to the Microsoft Office 2013 pricing changes and Licensing T&C changes, so to save me repeating what's already been written elsewhere, I suggest you go and have a read of that.  Notice the price increases that they detail - they are not insignificant.

So, basically, Microsoft is intentionally inflating their regular, perpetual Office 2013 licensing prices so that their new Office 365 pricing is appealing.  Of course, making the Office 365 pricing appealing without these price hikes and license usage reductions to their regular licenses would have meant introducing these new Office 365 lines at better pricing, but that's not going to happen with Steve Ballmer - an accountant - running Microsoft.

Now, the other *major* issue I have with the new licensing options is that none of the Office 365 options allows for installation on a Remote Desktop Server (RDS), so if you are using Office 2013 on an RDS, you'll need to purchase an Open Business or Open Value License as previously and will not be able to take advantage of the new features of the Office 365 Small Business Premium Licenses.  Not very smart, Microsoft.

Now, in a recent meeting with Microsoft, we were told that discussions were taking place around how to address this issue and they the issue was a rather complex one, yet they failed to see my extremely simple and effective solution that would have taken 2 people, 2 cups of coffee and 5 minutes tops in a single meeting involving the Office 365 Licensing Manager and the Open Licensing Product Manager:

O365: We need to have one of the O365 license instances be usable in an RDS environment
OLPM: OK, so we'll issue a RDS key into the Office 365 portal for you for one of the instances
O365: Thanks

And there you have it - Office 365 subscribers would be able to use their Office 365 subscription in a Remote Desktop environment.  See, Microsoft, it wasn't that hard now, was it?  :(


The Outspoken Wookie

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