The trouble with MS Office Live

The Cloud is more than just a fad, but that perception is hard to shift, particularly when Microsoft gets its hands on the technology.

Microsoft Office Live has never been central to our infrastructure, but I signed up of it as an experiment to see what it might have to offer.

The basic web package was functional, attractive even, but wasn’t something that we needed in our business. More important was a way to share and work on MS Office documents from different computers in different locations, and as AccountingWEB has documented over the years, this functionality has been limping towards viability through different iterations in recent years: Office Live, Office web components and most recently Office365.

Office still rules on our desktop machines, but aligning the different programs and components is a nightmare, requiring us to make adjustments to users’ Active Directory IDs to allow them to access the online tools. This is hardly what Cloud applications should be about.

Some of our users are doing it for themselves, but Office365 still hasn’t really cracked the web-desktop divide for us. The most common solution for sharing and editing documents around here is Google Docs.

This situation is likely to continue for the time being after I received an email recently from the Microsoft Office Live Small Business Team announcing, “On 30 April 2012, Office Live Small Business will be discontinued. If you do not transition your website, stokdyk.tech.officelive.com, your customised e-mail and website account will be deactivated and all of its content will be deleted.

“You must choose to transition your account content to the Microsoft Office 365 6 month free trial or to another web service provider or storage location.”

Microsoft is never shy about its intentions to direct customers to move in the direction that it wants and there was little surprise when the email arrived. But it flagged up one of our big concerns about the reliability of Cloud suppliers. By marketing its software like a street drug dealer handing out free samples and then turning the screws when the users are addicted, Microsoft demonstrated once again that it doesn’t really get the new “software as a service” philosophy.

In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t have the time to pursue our experiments any further. If as a business we had decided to move elements of our infrastructure on Office Live, SkyDrive and the like, we would now be faced with a major cost adjustment, or inconvenient technology transition.

It’s not a huge announcement in the annals of computing history, but still a strong sign that Google is likely to eclipse Microsoft the long term, just as Bill Gates & company overtook IBM a generation before.

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