In a press event held Monday to introduce its next version of Office, Microsoft finally appeared to be embracing the BYOD movement. Several keynote speakers introduced Windows 8 with Office 2013--with apps such as OneNote; SkyDrive enabling cloud services; and social collaboration via SharePoint and Lync.
Cloud and social were central to Microsoft's announcement. So was the fact that its products now work with touchscreen tablets.
Check out our video report from the Microsoft event:
In his keynote Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said it felt like 1995 all over again, when Office 95 and the Internet were still exciting and new. The difference now is that Microsoft lets you access work documents on any device from anywhere, anytime. Ballmer noted that the working environment is different than when he started at Microsoft. In those days, you gave everyone a private office. Today, people work in more social and collaborative ways. In the new environment, Microsoft is embracing Skype and the concept of collaboration. With the recent acquisition of Yammer, Microsoft hopes to build a social infrastructure for that collaboration.
While BYOD began when senior company officers demanded to use their iPads to read their financial reports and access their email, it is clear that Microsoft doesn't want to be left behind in this new age of mobile computing.
At least one customer at the event agreed with that vision. Mike Kaminsky, a band manager for the Warped Tour, said he takes his Samsung tablet with him on the road and leaves his other devices at home. He uses his iPad to listen to music.
One of the biggest announcements to emerge from the event was the unveiling of the enterprise app store. After Microsoft corporate VP PJ Hough gave a long demo on stage describing how Microsoft fits in the enterprise, he told BYTE that the killer app has yet to surface. The ecosystem is unique because the apps talk between the Web and Microsoft programs. In his keynote, Hough showed how apps written to Linkedin's back end could hook up to Outlook and capture contact information and store it. Hough also showed how an app written for Microsoft Excel showing census data could provide a map-based visualization. When you insert an app for Office, you can display a large Bing map in Excel using data connected live to a spreadsheet This is a new capability that will change the way people think of Office as a service, Hough said.
After the keynotes, BYTE spoke with Gartner analyst Guy Creese, who said he frequently gets calls about iPads at work. "Microsoft gets that it's no longer a laptop computing world, and must plan for touch screens and tablets. The new version of Office is targeted to tablets as well as desktops," Creese said.
"It shows Microsoft that it is a much more mixed world. I'll get a call that 'a bunch of our VPs are using iPads and using Dropbox to synchronize confidential documents to the cloud, what do we do?' This is not a case where IT can tell people, 'oh no you can't use it.' Whatever solution companies buy from Google, Microsoft, IBM or whoever, they have to work with multiple devices people now carry," Creese said.
But Microsoft's layer of security helps it leverage data on all devices. Ballmer made it clear that Microsoft is focused on providing service in the cloud, signaling a major shift in its core strategy of desktop-based products. Some customers we spoke with said they were worried about moving to the cloud.
Bryan Garcia, chief technology officer at Equifax, said his company is hesitant about cloud computing because financial information is at stake. However, Garcia said the new productivity apps make the cloud transition easier.