We’ve all had a chuckle at the expense of Microsoft Office, with the ’90s debuts of Bob and Clippy being particularly hilarious (at least in hindsight).
But now it is Microsoft itself that is making fun of Office 2019, the latest version of its iconic office suite. Although Office 2019 was just released this past September, Microsoft is urging you to replace it — and your older versions of Office — with Office 365.
And it’s not just in Microsoft’s “Twins Challenge” ads. Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Office and Windows group, comes right out and says that Office 2019’s applications are “frozen in time.
They don’t ever get updated with new features,” while “Office 365 includes fully installed Office applications ... and these apps keep getting better over time, with new capabilities delivered every month.”
Wait, what happened to Office service packs? Well, it appears there won’t be any.
I’m sure the line of users wanting to sign up for those “new capabilities” is already forming. Or maybe not. What exactly can you add to an office suite these days, anyway?
As far as I’m concerned, the last worthwhile “new capabilities” came with Office 2003. In the software industry, a 16-year drought for killer apps was once inconceivable.
What does Microsoft’s marketing push against itself mean? It means that it is moving from being a product company to being a service company. Microsoft doesn’t want to sell you bits on a floppy, CD, DVD or download anymore. Instead, it wants you to rent a service from it forever and a day.
It’s been coming for some time. Back in 2015, I pointed out that Microsoft made only 10 per cent of its revenue from Windows sales.
In Microsoft’s last quarter, Microsoft reported that its Office revenue increased 11 per cent, which was driven by Office 365 Commercial revenue growth of 34 per cent. Microsoft is continuing to move its business model to where the money is. And the money is in cloud-based services.
You can see this in what might first look to you like two unrelated developments. First, Microsoft gave up on developing its Edge web browser. It’s replacing Edge’s internals with Google’s open-source Chromium code.
Second, Microsoft is cutting off support for Internet Explorer (IE) 10 years sooner than expected. And, even more amazing, Microsoft senior cyber security architect Chris Jackson actually blogged that Microsoft wants you to stop using IE and start using “modern” browsers instead.
And what are modern browsers? They’re Chrome-based browsers.
The upshot: Microsoft no longer cares if you’re using Microsoft bits on your computer. It wants you to use arch-rival Google’s Chrome instead. Heck, a Microsoft web developer told Mozilla’s developers on Twitter that they should throw in the towel on Firefox in favour of Chromium.
Why? Because, looking ahead, Microsoft wants to cash in on services and not products. That’s one of the reasons why Microsoft has been embracing open-source software.
Not only is that where its enterprise customers are now, but if you’re offering services instead of packages, you don’t care so much about having control of the bits.
What you care about is delivering great services that will keep customers coming. And that’s what Microsoft thinks it has in Office 365.
The next natural step from here is Windows as a service. I don’t know when Microsoft will finally switch over to a Chrome OS-style Windows, but I do know it’s coming.
I am, in the meantime, certain we won’t ever see another standalone version of Office. It’s done.