This morning Microsoft announced a refresh and extension of the business-facing side of its Office 365 service, the firm’s cloud-based productivity solution. The company added three ‘Stock-keeping units’ (SKUs) to the mix of offerings it provides to corporate clients, forging the feature set of Office 365 to better match the consumer and educationally-focused SKUs already in existence.
In short, if you liked what the Office 365 Home Premium product looked like, but wanted the enterprise version of it, it now exists. Office 365 for business customers was until today an almost à la carte affair, with the ‘Small Business’ plan providing document viewing online, and email hosting.
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Office 365 for consumers and educational institutions feature Office desktop applications, and an assortment of cloud-based services to complement the full feature mix. This is how you should view the three new Office 365 SKUs: Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Midsize Business, and Office 365 Small Business Premium.
Unlike Office 365 Home Premium, the new SKUs feature heavier-grade applications such as Lync and SharePoint instead of SkyDrive and Skype. Microsoft is also quite proud of its ability to ‘stream’ Office to any Windows 7 or 8 computer, allowing subscribers to handle any Office-based task at will.
I’m not going to tear down the SKUs by feature for you; if you care enough to know, you will. Instead, let’s take a look at the broader context of the announcement. Here’s Microsoft:
With today’s general availability of Office 365 for all businesses, the new Office is now fully available to businesses, academic institutions and consumers.
That’s an illuminating quote. ‘Full availability’ indicates that Office 365’s business offerings were incomplete before today. That is correct. Thus, we can view the current Office 365 landscape as a full view of Microsoft’s first vision of moving its Office product not just to the cloud, but also to service pricing.
How the heck is it going?
This are going well, it would seem. The Office division itself is in general rude health, but the Office 365 product itself appears to be accelerating well for Microsoft. This matters because if it wasn’t, Microsoft would have a $24 billion per year business rooted in a dying business model.
Sure, Office would enjoy a slow decline, but shipping software in a box for hundreds of dollars will quickly no longer be a mainstream proposition.
I asked Microsoft for performance statistics, which they were happy to provide – typical, when things are going well: in the last twelve months, the number of small and medium-sized businesses using Office 365 has risen 150%; paid seats are up tree times on a year over year basis; the total subscriber install base has doubled in the last twelve months.
For now, having achieved product harmony across its SKU pines for different user classes, Microsoft appears to be on good footing. Whether it can maintain this growth, however, remains to be seen.
Top Image Credit: Robert Scoble