A lot has been said about Microsoft's recent Office 2013 preview in respect to Windows 8 tablets, and its integration/mobile SkyDrive capabilities, from a consumer standpoint. And although an Office 365 Enterprise preview is available to try, much has been left to speculation as to what Office 2013 really entails for enterprises looking to be largely, if not fully, immersed in the cloud.
A major point that Microsoft spoke about during its mid-July Office 2013 press event was the introduction of a new subscription-based pricing model. Instead of having to pay for full-fledged software, once traditionally installed on an operating system, users can now subscribe to Microsoft's on-demand Office 365 service, which would give them the ability to then download a desktop version of Office 2013 to a Windows 7 or 8 PC or comparable device, if they so desired. So long as a subscriber continues to pay his/her subscription fee, he/she can continue to use Office 2013, without interruption. However, if said user fails to pay for the service, Office 2013 will cease to function, even though the software will remain installed. Moreover, if an Office 365 subscription is restored, so too will Office 365 functionality.
By no means is Microsoft going all-in with providing a purely SaaS office suite, as Google has done with Google Apps. Even though Google has proved the more successful cloud option (due to its affordability), and Microsoft yearns to capture more market share in this product segment, Microsoft still doesn't want to alienate their long-established customer base: you know, those customers that have little concept of what the term cloud computing means, and simply want their Office software as they always had it-installed on their computer. Therefore, by providing an entry point, by way of an Office 365 subscription, Microsoft passively introduces on-demand versions of the same time-tested applications, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, through the guise of a more mobile Office via Office 365, and to a certain extent, consumer-centric SkyDrive. Eventually, Office in cloud won't seem all that intimidating even to the most commonplace users with a bad case of "desktop bias".
So what does Office 2013 entail for the enterprise cloud? By migrating more users to the cloud, Microsoft might be able to put even more R&D into Office 365. Microsoft has already publicly stated that their future endeavors lie in the cloud. Therefore, come Office 2013's full release, you can darn well expect some nice incentives when opting to pay for Office 2013 as part of an Office 365 subscription. This is good news for any enterprise transitioning to an on-demand-focused, productivity-computing architecture, both in terms of consolidating licenses, and being able to take advantage of all the great collaboration and mobility features Office 365 promotes.
Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.