Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Office goes subscription-based, is Windows next?

with 2 comments

One of the more interesting takeaways from this week’s Office 365 announcement was that Office, the venerable productivity suite that generates oodles of cash for Microsoft, will be available via a subscription-backed-with-cloud-services model. Customers will be able to “rent” the use of Office for as long as they wish to use it.

Vendor CFOs love the subscription model because it provides a predictable revenue stream rather than one with peaks and troughs that is prevalent with the traditional purchasing model for software; for Microsoft it presents the added bonus that they can get customers onto modern versions of software quicker thus reducing support costs for backward compatibility issues. Customers like the subscription model too because it is a predictable cost that rises or falls in line with headcount and moreover they always have access to the latest software.

The obvious question that arises is “if Microsoft can introduce a cloud-service-backed subscription model for Office, why not do it for Windows as well”? With that in mind its worth remarking that in the last few months a service for cloud-based PC management of Windows PCs called Windows Intune has entered beta which purports to:

help you centrally manage and secure your PCs thru a simple web-based console

I envisage Windows Intune eventually moving to a broader service offering akin to Office 365 where you rent the operating system from Microsoft and they take care of all the maintenance for you. Again the same benefits apply for both parties apply and the promise of always being on the latest version of an operating system would be a tempting one for IT departments I am sure.

Looking even further ahead I can envisage a time where all we have on our desktop is a dumb terminal and a keyboard and the processing horsepower (i.e. the operating system) lives in a datacentre; granted, superfast broadband needs to be far more ubiquitous than it is today in order to support this but that will come with time. The prospect of always-on, always up-to-date, zero-installation-required-is software both compelling and, I feel, inevitable.

This is all speculative but nonetheless I’m sure that the landscape of desktop computing in corporate environments is going to look very very different in, say, ten years time to what it does today. I certainly don’t assume that Windows or even Microsoft will be a part of that future like they are today but I am pretty certain that whoever comes to dominate computing in the corporate arena in years to come will have to adopt a model something like the one I have described in this blog post. if I’m still writing in ten years time, and you are still reading, then maybe I’ll refer back to this blog post and see how close we are to this cloud-based future.



Written by Jamiet

October 21, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I agree that true Desktop as a Service is coming and not soon enough, whether that’s on an iPad, dumb terminal, web browser or traditional PC, paid for on a subscription basis. The hurdle standing in the way of this utopia is comments like this about the online services we’ll need “Office Professional Plus includes the new Office Web Apps, online companions to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, which let you review and make light edits to documents directly from a browser.” “online companions”, “light edits”, I worry when I read those words. What are light edits? Why can’t I have the desktop editions? We shall see.

    Gavin Payne

    October 22, 2010 at 7:24 am

  2. Funny you should mention Windows Intune, as you *sort of* have a subscription to Windows with it.

    Not widely advertised, but if you thumb through the FAQ you see that you are automatically entitled to an upgrade version of Windows 7 Enterprise (and any future of the Windows desktop OS) if your subscription is current.


    I know that this isn’t quite the cloud-based subscription service you have in mind, but it matches Office 365 in that you get subscription access to a fully-featured desktop version of the software…


    October 22, 2010 at 7:36 am

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