Microsoft gets ready for Office 2013

News Will Garside
Jan 11, 2013

New licensing, products and partner readiness campaign

With the launch of Office 2013 imminent, Janet Gibbons, director of partner strategy at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), believes that the firm now has its software well positioned for both on-premise, cloud and hybrid delivery.

“This year we are talking about a new era for Microsoft where every major product has had a refresh starting from spring 2012,” she told Channel Pro.

The list includes Windows 8, Server 2012, SQL, SharePoint, and over the next few weeks, Office, the firm’s flagship productivity suite. Channel readiness is a key objective and Microsoft has set itself a target to reach 7500 partners through roadshows and face-to-face briefings, of which the firm is halfway to its goal.

Although Microsoft describes an ecosystem of 34,000 partners in the UK, the channel breaks down into around 16,000 partners that have paid subscriptions to the Microsoft Network and around 350 managed accounts.

As part of its readiness and education programme, the vendor is running two day deep dive technical sessions which have already reached 1700 partners. This has been complemented by discounted training to help around 200 partners gain Small Business Competency certifications.

Although product refreshes have brought new features such as the upcoming App Store for Microsoft Office, significant changes have also been made to licensing. A new SKU for Office 2013 will allow mid-sized organisations of up to 250 seats to licence the suite on a per user model, a change which reflects the need for staff to maintain both desktops and laptops as home working becomes more prevalent.

According to Lara Kingwell, Office launch lead, this change will offer “significant price advantage” and more flexibility around deployment options. Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based suite will also move to an open licensing model allowing the channel to buy through distribution and, crucially, set pricing.

Kingwell points out the requirements around Windows 7 and 8 plus the new licensing model provides partners with, “a chance to revisit legacy installed base with an easier upgrade path.”

The impetus for the accelerated timetable that Microsoft seems to be on is “is all about customer choice” says Gibbons (pictured). “Keep it on-premise, migrate it to the cloud, partner hosted … [customers] can mix and match dependent on need.”


Channel Pro comment

The long list of Microsoft products that have been refreshed could be expanded still with Lync, Windows Phone 8 and new additions like Surface, but the latter has yet to reach the channel.

Early comments on the new Office 2013 are positive although Office365 started off a bit shaky, the current incarnation offers 90 percent of what a user needs. Compared to the majority of browser based alternatives such Kingsoft Office and QuickOffice, Office365 is order of an magnitude better simply due to compatibility with the Microsoft file formats used by Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Although these rivals are essentially free. Only Google Drive has a credible rival but even that is limited by not having an onsite portion for when the network is not available.

You could suspect that Intel was hoping Windows 8 would prompt a surge of UltraBook sales but the likelihood is that Office will be a better trigger to get customers upgrading – especially with XP now on its last legs.

The Microsoft portfolio looks strong, although its late arrival to the party in terms of app stores and its lack of support for Android is a disappointing yet understandable commercial decision. Microsoft is still the defacto standard for office productivity although it is being nibbled around the cloudy edges in areas like CRM and ERP, especially by vendors like NetSuite and Salesforce.

The pricing changes that recognise a multi-device world are welcomed, and maybe should go a bit farther but the balance between openness and allowing software piracy to flourish is a difficult one.

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