With its new cloud-based suite, Microsoft is striking back at Google Apps. But consider these shortcomings in key areas.
5. True multi-platform access. Microsoft says Office 365 lets users work "from virtually anywhere and nearly any device with a familiar productivity experience across PC, phone, and browser." But blogosphere reports indicate that the cross-platform vision is more promise than reality.
iPad users who downloaded the trial version of Office 365 reported a number of problems. "I can't edit any document on the application," complained one, on a board maintained by iPadForums.net. Communicator for Mac 2011 also doesn't work. Furthermore, Office 365 performance isn’t consistent across Microsoft's own line of products. Office Web Apps exhibit different features and functionality depending on whether they're accessed on the desktop, tablets, or mobile devices. "There are some differences," Microsoft concedes.
Isn't the cloud supposed to enable a uniform, consistent end-user experience regardless of device? Microsoft needs to address this issue, or it could send the millions of iPad-using workers who need a solid office experience straight to Google.
6. In-document collaboration. Office 365 lets colleagues view and share documents through SharePoint and Lync Online. But when it comes to collaborating within a document, via real-time, simultaneous authoring, editing, and markup, Office 365 falls short. InformationWeek's side-by-side comparison of Office 365 and Google Apps gave Google the nod. This is inexplicable given the wealth of collaboration tools Microsoft gained through its acquisition of Ray Ozzie's Groove Networks in 2005. (Then again, Ozzie recently left the company after concluding Microsoft wasn't fully committed to the cloud.) Office 365's appeal in document-heavy industries like publishing, legal, and research could be limited until its collaboration capabilities are improved.
Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns
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7. Robust developer tools. What you see is what you get with Office 365 because there are few developer tools. "The main fly-in-the-ointment for developers is that there's no way your business users can make use of add-ins, VBA macros, or any form of customization unless they fall back on locally installed applications," says Kay Ewbank of the "I Programmer" blog. That means possibilities for integrating Office 365 with other business apps or creating customized workflows are limited. With the next update to Office 365, Microsoft needs to focus on the developer.
The bottom line: Office 365 is the first step in what inevitably will be Microsoft's full migration to the cloud. The software industry is headed that way whether Redmond likes it or not. But the company's financial dependence on desktop and server software means its journey could take longer than legacy-free rivals. Office 365 is a solid product for businesses that want to take a similarly cautious road to the cloud. Less patient travelers may find it lacking.
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