Archive for 2010/08/22

Report Looks at Microsoft Office Alternatives

Report Looks at Microsoft Office Alternatives
Organizations have been considering alternatives to Microsoft Office, but not as replacements quite yet.

A study published this month by Forrester Research, “The Next Wave of Office Productivity” by Sheri McLeish, suggests that the current economic downturn may have organizations considering other solutions for word processing, spreadsheet and presentation needs. Organizations appear to be eyeing Web-based and installed productivity suites for segments of their workforce as an alternative to paying Microsoft’s recurring Office licensing fees.

Of the alternatives considered in the report, Oracle OpenOffice.org stands out as a free installable productivity suite. It’s supported by 10 percent of organizations surveyed by Forrester Research. Corel WordPerfect Office and Adobe Acrobat.com represent lower cost installed alternatives to Microsoft Office. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) options in the report include Google Apps Premier Edition, ThinkFree and Zoho Apps.

Replacing Microsoft Office was not the top motivator in considering the alternatives, according to a Forrester Research survey. Instead, most decision-makers saw alternative productivity suites as “complementary” to Microsoft Office or for use as “specialized apps.”

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Interoperability has become less of an obstacle to using an alternative productivity suite. The report found that “today, most of the alternatives can open all versions of Office docs, but rich editing and roundtripping remain problematic.”

Organizations may have other concerns about using alternative productivity suites. With SaaS-based suites, organizations may have trust issues about storing content in the Internet cloud. SaaS-based alternatives sometimes lag in terms of providing offline access to documents, the report observes.

Organizations could save money by adopting a “fit-to-purpose” strategy, in which information workers are allocated productivity suites based on their actual needs. However, IT shops would have to be adept in determining user needs to go that route. If that’s possible, Forrester’s research indicates that as much as 75 percent of employees could do fine using an alternative productivity suite to Microsoft Office.

The traditional IT approach is to implement a “one-size-fits-all” strategy with productivity suite software. IT shops following this route typically stick with Microsoft licensing. “Shops that choose this strategy are strongly committed to Microsoft and usually run Exchange, SharePoint and Office,” the report states.

Organizations considering the alternatives should carry out the following steps, according to the report. They should define what productivity and collaboration mean within the organization. Second, the “strategic commitment to Microsoft” should be assessed. Finally, organizations should consider segmenting user provisioning to address specific information worker needs. This latter approach could lead to an overall lowering of costs.

Ballmer Outlines Mobile Strategy at Microsoft Event

Ballmer Outlines Mobile Strategy at Microsoft Event

Microsoft’s business strategies were described at the company’s Financial Analyst Meeting on Thursday.

The talks by five Microsoft executives, including Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, came on the heels of the company’s positive fourth-quarter earnings. Last week, Microsoft announced revenue of $16 billion for the quarter. Peter Klein, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, said at the time that all of Microsoft’s business segments showed “double-digit growth,” quarter over quarter.
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The number-crunching crowd of financial analysts attending Microsoft’s annual event may have preferred seeing spreadsheets and graphs. Instead, they got PowerPoint slides illustrating Microsoft’s general vision in the enterprise and consumer markets. That vision encompassed Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing platform, Windows operating system success and consumer products.

Ballmer Lays Out Consumer Strategy
During Ballmer’s talk, the Windows Phone 7 operating system was demonstrated running on an unidentified prototype device by Augusto Valdez, senior product manager for Windows Phone 7. Valdez showed off the mobile integration of the Microsoft Bing search engine, which provides search and mapping services based on the user’s location. He said that the device was capable of running multiple Microsoft Exchange accounts on one phone.

Brad Brooks, CVP for Windows consumer marketing, showed how Windows 7-based PCs and Windows Phone 7 smartphones will be able to tap into a “personal cloud.” Data can be shared across those devices using Windows Sync technology and the Windows Live SkyDrive cloud-based storage space. This data-sharing capability will be available “starting this fall,” Brooks said.

“And by Q3 a vast majority of all PCs that ship to consumers will have this pre-installed so people will have this personal cloud experience as part of their Windows 7 experience right out of the box, and of course that will come with every Windows Phone 7 as well,” Brooks said, according to a transcript.

Ballmer focused his talk on the consumer side of Microsoft’s business since it is “very much on the minds of [Microsoft's] shareholders.” The company’s consumer products include Xbox gaming consoles, Bing search, Microsoft Office, the Windows operating system and Windows Phone.

Microsoft’s mobile strategy has received much criticism over the years, particularly with regard to meeting the competition in the smartphone and tablet markets. However, Ballmer said that Microsoft has had Windows 7 on tablets and slate devices “for a number of years.” He noted Apple’s progress in putting out popular products and suggested that Microsoft would rise to the challenge.

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“Just like we had to make things happen on netbooks, we’ve got to make things happen with Windows 7 on slates,” Ballmer said. “And we are in the process of doing that as we speak. We’re working with our hardware partners; we’re tuning Windows 7 to new slate hardware designs that they’re bringing them to market.” He later referred to devices from Samsung, HTC and LG that are expected to “come to market this fall,” but it wasn’t clear whether he was talking about tablets or smartphones (or both).

Microsoft expects to get “a boost” in 2011 when Intel rolls out a low-power processor to market code-named “Oak Trail,” Ballmer said. Oak Trail is an Intel Atom-based processor for tablets that’s expected to use half the power of an Atom chip. It’s designed to work with Windows 7, MeeGo and Google operating systems, according to Intel.

In a Q&A session with the financial analysts, Ballmer would not be pinned down on when Windows phones or tablets would hit the market. “We’ll be in the market as soon as we can,” he said. He did reveal a bit about Microsoft’s thinking on executing its product plans, noting that “there is no way we will let hardware be an impediment.” Ballmer revealed that Microsoft had actually designed the hardware for Windows phones for its partners.

Turner Extols Microsoft’s Enterprise Strengths
Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, described the company’s advantages in the enterprise space. He said that 70 percent of Microsoft’s cloud platform wins in its fourth quarter represented new business, with Microsoft gaining customers from IBM (Lotus Notes) and Novell (e-mail). He cited “limitations” to Amazon’s cloud service in that it requires the customer to maintain virtual machines. He touted Windows Azure, saying that the capabilities of Google’s and Salesforce.com’s cloud platforms fall short by comparison. Microsoft has an edge over VMware because “they don’t run their own datacenters,” Turner said.

The introduction of Windows 7 to the market gave Microsoft a 2.7-point advantage over Apple in terms of laptop attachments in the U.S. market, Turner claimed. Microsoft sells “just under eight copies per second [of Windows 7] since we launched this product in October 22,” he said. Turner also claimed that Windows Server has been showing its highest gains over Linux in the last three years.

Microsoft hopes to grab database market share when Oracle launches its Fusion product, which is rumored to happen this fall, Turner said. He touted the “self-service” business intelligence capabilities of SQL Server 2008 R2. In 2011, Microsoft expects to launch the Parallel Data Warehouse version of that product, which will enable “100-terabyte” data warehouses.

On the enterprise collaboration front, Microsoft is challenging Cisco Systems with the Microsoft Office Communications Server product. Turner said that Microsoft’s Live Meeting service is offered for “a third of the price of [Cisco's] WebEx” videoconferencing solution.

In addition to Turner and Ballmer’s talks, the event featured presentations by Bill Koefoed, general manager of investor relations, Craig Mundie, chief research strategy officer, and Peter Klein, chief financial officer.

Recorded video and print transcripts are available at the Microsoft investor relations Web page here.

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