Microsoft's just-released Office 365 will clearly be useful for some small and medium-sized businesses. But it's still only a juryrigged, halfway step that shows Microsoft isn't yet truly serious about the cloud.
Give Microsoft its due: There's plenty to like about Office 365. Businesses will now be able to get all the benefits of Exchange and SharePoint without the headaches of managing servers and apps, for a start. IT costs and headaches can be reduced. Some small companies may be able to get by without an IT staff altogether, yet still have access to sophisticated applications. As I point out in my review, Microsoft Office 365 beta: Potentially useful, occasionally frustrating, the price is right as well.
But still, Office 365 can't be considered a truly serious offering, for several reasons. First is that Office 365 isn't really an integrated app. Instead, it's a Rube Goldberg-type construction, with disparate parts poorly bolted on to one another. There's no common interface. Instead, each part works independently of one another. It can be dizzyingly confusing to use. If Microsoft were serious about the cloud, it would have put together a seamless suite.
In addition, despite the product's name, it's not really a Web-based version of Office. True, there are some rudimentary ways to use Office via the Web, but the key word here is "rudimentary." Again, if Microsoft were serious about the cloud, it would have released a true Web-based version of Office.
All in all, even though Office 365 is undeniably useful, it has the feeling of being a hedged bet. No matter what Steve Ballmer says, Office 365 shows that Microsoft isn't all-in when it comes to the cloud.
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