Microsoft Expands the Cloud

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Microsoft is betting on the cloud in a big way. For the past few years Microsoft has been offering email services in the cloud (software as a service or SaaS). First with “Exchange Online” then the more robust service “Microsoft 365” followed which offered more services such as Lync, Sharepoint and the ability to install their latest Office product on up to 5 computers for each subscriber. Microsoft is preparing to expand its influence in cloud computing. You can see this strategy simply by looking at their three newest products.

“SkyDrive”

SkyDrive is exactly what it sounds like. With SkyDrive you can store and access your files in Microsoft’s cloud service. Anyone can sign up for a SkyDrive account for free. Yes I said free. What do you get for free? 25GB’s of storage. That’s about 23 gigs more than the free 2 gigs of free storage than Dropbox currently offers. The price is exceptionally reasonable if you need more. $10/year buys you 20 more gigs, $25/year buys you 50 more gigs while $50/years brings you up an additional 100 gigs. You can sign up today at www.skydrive.live.com. Why would Microsoft offer so much free online storage? Well we will get to my opinion on that shortly.

“Windows 8”

Windows 8 is scheduled unofficially to enter the market around October 2012. For the past couple of months a “Consumer Preview” has been available and I have been using it on my home office pc and laptop. Although I was impressed with the early preview releases there was some clumsiness to it in respect to performance. However the latest preview is said to be nearly the finished product everyone will see this fall. The new interface is a huge leap away from what everyone has been accustomed to since Windows XP launched in 2001. The interface is tile designed. This can be somewhat cumbersome at first, especially for those not experienced with tablets. You see Microsoft is also betting that monitor technology will make the next leap as well and become the standard for computer users. Windows 8 is reportedly at its best with touch based monitors just like those we use today on our tablets and smartphones. Don’t be afraid because once you figure out how to use your mouse on Windows 8 you are fine. However it will probably be more natural with a touch screen. You can find touchscreen LCD monitors starting in the mid-$300 range so this move towards touch screen monitors will probably happen faster than the move from CRT to LCD. Microsoft will be releasing their own tablet in the near future as well, “Surface” and Windows 8 will be its platform. There is a “Desktop” option which does take the user back to a desktop that is similar to Windows 7. Microsoft realizes that the keyboard is not going away anytime soon as it will remain prominent with Microsoft Office products for writing, programming and designing applications. I see the touch screen ability to use gestures as the predominant way for internet surfing, gaming. This is not to be unexpected because this is how we already use tablets and smartphones. SkyDrive is built in to Windows 8 so access to your online files could not be easier. Your SkyDrive simply appears as another drive on your pc.

Microsoft Office 2013

This past weekend Microsoft also released a “Consumer Preview” of this product. I have been using this at three locations for a few days now. Just like Windows 8, SkyDrive is “built in” here and linked to each of the office products. Therefore right from Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Outlook you have immediate access to your online files. This is where the “free” and inexpensive storage from Microsoft makes sense. Although pricing has not been announced yet you can be assured Microsoft Office 2013™ will be pushed as a “subscriber service”. For a monthly fee of somewhere probably between $5 and $10 a month you will get access to all of the newest Microsoft Office products no matter where you are or what type of device you are using. Those of us already subscribing to Microsoft 365 will grasp this concept. However for others it may be a little more difficult to accept. The free SkyDrive storage and the easy access to your data will probably inspire more people and organizations to jump into the cloud with Microsoft.

My first impressions of the new office is….. “wow”. Unlike previous versions you simply download the application while logged into your Microsoft account and within moments you are using Office 2013. After linking the products (Word, Excel etc.) to your SkyDrive account you have immediate access to all of your online files. The files on SkyDrive are synced and also stored (locally) on any computer you use as well. Microsoft Office 2013™ also makes integration to social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn extremely easy. Obviously Microsoft believes that social media is here to stay and in fact sites such as Facebook which were once for personal use are beginning to merge and be accepted in the work place.

Thanks to this integration of products in the cloud I was able to work on this article at my home office pc, on my IPAD and finally completed at my office pc. All in the cloud, seamless and effortlessly