MICROSOFT HAS confirmed that the next big iteration of its productivity suite, Office 2019, will only be available to Windows 10 users.
Only yesterday, as we commented on the near-static growth figures for the latest version of Windows, we said that Microsoft would have to do something to force people to move. This could be it.
Or it could be the biggest own goal in history. Erm, yet.
The vast majority of holdouts with Windows 10 are enterprise customers who have stuck with trusty Windows 7 as there has been no reason not to.
But with the vast majority of those customers also using Office, they're faced with a stark choice - upgrade the OS, or change their office suite.
But with online offerings like those from Google and Box and open source alternatives like LibreOffice, which has just released its latest version, Microsoft could be about to learn another lesson in the "you're not the only game in town, lads" department. All these offerings give options at least equal to Microsoft Office and will work across everything from Linux and Mac and even Chrome OS via the web.
If Windows 7 and 8.1 users are forced to use Office on the web, then they may question why they've stuck with Office at all, and any alternatives out there are likely to spend the next few months emphasising to anyone who will listen that they are completely compatible and that transition and roll out would be a doddle. That's if they've any sense, anyway.
The desktop Office suite will be supported for quite a while to come for the simple reason that despite the fact that Microsoft, Google et al, would like you to think that cloud alternatives are better, there'll always be a market for the apps. So expect Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, Skype for Business etc etc to start rolling out in preview in Q3, though it's doubtless that Office 365 will be heavily peddled alongside.
What Microsoft is actually doing, is presenting a way out, and it could be more savvy IT managers decide it's time to take it. µ
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