What does Office 365 Need to Succeed

The newly renamed BPOS needs the same thing that BPOS needed. A REASON to buy. A reason to keep coming back for more. In my opinion … Office 365 needs an App Store.

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The suite of applications formerly known as Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services aka BPOS has been renamed to Office 365. While this is a somewhat more palatable name the fact remains that the key to success for Office 365 (nee BPOS) needs more than a new name. It needs a reason for being which in the world of Microsoft means a reason for buying.

People will not buy unless they have a reason to use the applications. People will not keep coming back to the tools unless they have a reason to do so. I think an App Store could provide that reason.

Success will Depend upon Adoption

Obviously. Adoption drives the next wave of innovation.

Think of Apple --- the Apple store topped 300 million downloads in Aug 2010. Why do people keep coming back? Novelty, the expectation that they will encounter the unexpected and, of course, utility.

  1. The Novelty wears off quickly, but not so quickly that a lot of sales (i.e. downloads) occur.
  2. The Expectation of the Unexpected – Every time I have picked up an iPad I have been surprised by the cool, interesting and useful things I have found. I don’t mean useful in the sense that my productivity shot through the roof. I mean useful in the fun sense too. Also, like Amazon.com – the recommendations for artists, books and applications are often treats of unexpected goodness.
  3. The Utility – Yes, some people do mix pleasure with business. I see a lot of people working on their iPad’s while listening to music. Was this possible before the iPad came around? Of course, but the novelty combined with the utility is unique with the iPad form factor (long battery life doesn't hurt).

What will make Office 365 successful?

An app store. Think SalesForce.com’s AppExchange. This is a collection of a set of applications dedicated to business and productivity. Proof that it can be done on a business oriented basis.

Can Microsoft make Office 365 a Success?

YES. Microsoft has the perseverance and cash to help stay in this for the long haul.

The real key will be partners. Microsoft needs to court partners (see AppExchange). To extend the Microsoft Partner Network to include, embrace and extend their applications. The partners are the ones that will create solutions for the AppStore. The partners are the ones that will work independently and with Microsoft to develop a marketing campaign that drives the community to want to talk about, download and use the applications.

The Office 365 AppStore will need to be somewhat different than the Apple AppStore, but it doesn’t have to be all business. The combination of business with pleasure – much like the Apple AppStore with iPad downloads especially – can make the Office 365 AppStore a broad based and global success.

Will it be easy? No.

SNAGHTMLe326248I think some of the initial winners will be the smaller niche apps – that Run on Azure – with a branded logo experience. Something like my mock up on here. The longer term will include some of the larger app vendors that want to ride Microsoft’s coattails. Which is a VERY smart way to go about product development and deployment. Let Microsoft do the heavy lifting with the hosting and posting, as well as the data and server management.

The reality is that Azure or something like it from the various vendors offering Cloud Services will make this be the de facto way of doing computing in the coming years.

Don’t forget Azure ---

imageMicrosoft is All In --- Companies (including mine) are looking very closely at Azure and want to see it be successful. Office 365  should have hooks for apps posted and hosted on the Azure platform. The easier Microsoft can make it the better.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I want to see Microsoft succeed. I live in the Seattle area and I’m a former Microsoft employee. I just want them to do it right.

image This post highlights a few areas where Microsoft has an opportunity to “Tilt the Tables” again. An opportunity to leverage the millions of users of Microsoft Office and the millions of users that don’t use Microsoft Office today.

I have noticed a few oddities with the Office 365 Social Media strategy and have noted them below. They, the Office 365 team, gets to choose and use whatever strategy they want. If they want my advice --- they need to go about it a little differently.

Side Notes – Regarding the Office 365 Social Media Strategy

I’m not saying Office 365 needs to be 100% social media savvy, but it couldn't hurt.

Odd Twitter Strategyimage

Granted this is a new account, but it seems to me the Microsoft team just wants to make this into a “mouthpiece” for the Office 365 brand and product. The Follower-to-Following count is a bit lopsided. Not that there is anything wrong with this model or strategy. It’s just not one that would encourage me to follow this twitter alias. I might add them to a list, but that’s about it.

Misleading / Not Informative Tweets

imageThis tweet was posted on Oct 26th 2010 - Did you know 1B people and 20M businesses are in the #MSFT #cloud. #Office365 http://cot.ag/9NsfvT – The link leads to the Office 365 home page and offers nothing about the points they are making. I clicked thru some of the links and did not see the numbers they were alluding to. Maybe it’s in the videos? Maybe it’s buried in the text? Maybe it’s not factual?

Just my .02

These are a few of my observations and suggestions for the Office 365 and the Microsoft Azure strategy. Will Microsoft create a Office 365 AppStore? I don’t know. It’s not obvious from the BPOS or Office 365 web sites or blogs. I hope they do. The timing is right and the market is ready.

What do you think?

  • Is Microsoft on the right track?
  • Should Microsoft create an Office 365 AppStore?
  • What do you think will make Office 365 a success?

Please add a comment here of contact me via any of the channels below. I look forward to hearing from you.

image credits: Apple, SalesForce.com, Microsoft

clip_image002About The Author:
I have spent the better part of the last 20 years working in various aspects of the ECM industry. I am currently with Kodak as a Director of Business Development. In my past I have spent time at
Kofax, Microsoft, FileNet, K2, and at Captaris (which was acquired by Open Text in Nov 2008). Prior to that I was a Unix VAR running my own company. Follow me on Twitter, check my blog, send email or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn.


Carlo said…
I like your post - will need a little more time to answer...
First comments: you're right, they need partners, and it may be not that easy given some limitations of the current platform; but no, partners are not a must, there are many customers that live within the standard MS platform that will already onboard the cloud as is.