Heading to the Clouds. Microsoft ups the ante with its “Cloud First, Mobile First” strategy

It is not like me to comment on vendor announcements in this blog, nor is it like me to post two blogs in a single week, but with Microsoft’s TechEd conference taking place this week, there’s been a couple of significant announcements I wanted to cover.

The first announcement on Monday was of Microsoft moving to offer Unlimited OneDrive storage for Office 365 subscribers, with rollout commencing this year and into next year. This is a major announcement in its own right, and having had opportunity to speak to a couple of customers this week already, is clearly being viewed very positively. We’ve seen a number of players in this market moving their pricing structures in recent months, in particular Dropbox, but it’s hard to imagine how they are going to compete with the “free” in the business market.

Cloud economics were always going to prevail, and we’ve seen similar pricing battles in the IaaS market place earlier in the year, but the speed at which this market has been driven to zero (Note: it’s not really zero as customers will still need an O365 subscription) has been surprising. In terms of widespread adoption, not only do Microsoft need to move customers into O365 subscriptions, which they are very active with and this announcement will help them achieve, but ultimately they will need to address some of the usability challenges of OneDrive. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement was the major comment from users of a need to make the system more intuitive and simpler – being a (personal) user of many of these technologies – not something I would disagree with at all!

The second significant announcement was the introduction of MDM features into Office 365 applications. As if in the aftermath of the OneDrive announcement you were struggling for a reason to investigate Office 365… perhaps this will push you over the edge?

From my previous blog posts you’ll see that the Mobility market is one which I’ve been observing closely through 2014, and while Microsoft missed out on entry to this years’ rounds of Gartner quadrants for EMM due to timing, it is clear that the “Cloud First, Mobile First” strategy is starting to mobilise at pace.

What this solution potentially offers is access to the native Office experience on the device platforms that people want to use, but with the management capability to ensure security and control. Until now these have been somewhat mutually exclusive, with limited ability to exploit the native Office experience on mobile devices in a truly secure manner. This announcement brings those two requirements together, and provides a stepping stone to wider enablement through the InTune and EMS platforms for more sophisticated application delivery and control.

I greet both of these announcements positively, and there’s certainly a degree of excitement in the way they have been received. At Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in July we were given insight into the future strategy, as they cater for a heterogeneous world of devices and platforms, and take up the role of challenger. These moves certainly challenge and disrupt the status quo.

We have seen a lot of interest in Microsoft across O365 and Mobility this year, I suspect we’ll be discussing it a whole lot more now.

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Digital Workplace @PSBray

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