Microsoft Exec Says Cloud Strategy Is Right On Track - InformationWeek

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3/11/2011
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Doug Henschen
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Microsoft Exec Says Cloud Strategy Is Right On Track

Office Division president Kurt DelBene details customer wins, Office 2010 sales gains and software-as-a-service imperatives headed into 2012.

Mobile According to Microsoft

On the smart phone front, IDC expects 330 million of these devices to be purchased this year. Even if DelBene doesn't think of smart phones as PC alternatives, he agreed that mobility is having a tremendous impact on corporate computing. This led to a discussion about Windows Phone 7 and their native Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint apps that can to tap into Microsoft servers and services.

DelBene also talked up Microsoft's partnership with Nokia. I offered a jibe about cutting a deal with former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop (DelBene's predecessor), who was named Nokia's CEO in September. DelBene parried, pointing out the partnership was initiated before Elop joined Nokia.

But forget about Windows Phone 7 and Nokia. What about the dominant mobile market of today, as in iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices? What is Microsoft doing to make Office and its cloud offerings compatible with these devices, I asked?

"The first workload that will move to the cloud is messaging," DelBene said. "We have been engaged with all cell phone manufacturers over the last several years to license our Exchange Active Sync (EAS) protocol."

The result, he said, is that there isn't a smart phone on the market that doesn't have the ability to connect to Exchange email servers. Microsoft is also building software for non-Windows phones, DelBene said, pointing to a Microsoft OneNote app for the iPhone.

Let's be honest: Windows 7, Nokia and a OneNote app for iPhone simply isn't enough.

Given the bad blood between Google and Microsoft, let's assume we'll never see Office apps on Android. But I have to believe that sooner or later, Microsoft will see the light and at least offer Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for the iPhone. Sure, you can view Word docs on iPhones and iPads. But third-party app providers are capitalizing on interest in Office document editing. It makes no sense for Microsoft to ignore this opportunity.

Future Focus

Looking ahead, DelBene said Microsoft would stick with current themes, particularly its focus on helping customers move into cloud computing. Half of Microsoft's revenue for SharePoint, Exchange and Dynamics CRM will come from cloud deployments within four years, DelBene predicted, and he said the company is developing, planning and hoping for even higher numbers.

As of today, at least 50% of cloud app usage is driven by viewing of email attachments, he said. So Microsoft will continue to focus on "full, rich-client fidelity" and symmetry between the on-premises and on-demand viewing and editing experiences. It will also step up video, image and graphical content creating and editing capabilities, he said, and here, too, functionality will be consistent across on-premises and Web-based interfaces.

New functionality is always appealing, but the real driver of enterprise customer wins, DelBene said, is Microsoft's support for hybrid deployments. Thus, flexible licensing terms, easy-to-use migration tools and bullet-proof synchronization between on-premises and on-demand deployments is what companies really want.

"Companies are looking to get the same capabilities in the cloud that they now have on premises, and they want to do that in a flexible way," he said. "There's not a single one of our customers who says, 'flip the switch, I'm moving everything today."

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