Office streaming: What Microsoft will and won't say

Office streaming: What Microsoft will and won't say

Summary: On April 30, Microsoft shared a bit more about its future plans for streaming, using its SoftGrid technology. But officials wouldn't talk -- except in the most general terms -- about how and when the company is planning to expand its use of streaming technologies around Office and other Microsoft apps.

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Last week, there was talk that Microsoft was considering broadening the way it makes Microsoft Office available over the Web using streaming technology.

(For the record, it wasn't Microsoft doing the talking; it was some overly enthused partners.)

On April 30, Microsoft shared a bit more about its future plans for streaming, using its SoftGrid technology. But officials wouldn't talk -- except in the most general terms -- about how and when the company is planning to expand its use of streaming technologies around Office and other Microsoft apps.

SoftGrid is Microsoft's application virtualization technology that the company makes available as part of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). MDOP is available only to customers who sign up for Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing plan. Microsoft released MDOP 2008 lasat year and is readying the MDOP 2008 Release (R) 2 version, which will refresh all of the components of MDOP -- SoftGrid, the diagnostics and recovery toolset, advanced group-policy management, inventory-asset service and desktop error-monitoring -- is set for fall 2008. A near-final release candidate (RC) test build of SoftGrid 4.5 is coming in June, Microsoft officials said on April 30.

The version of SoftGrid that Microsoft released last year allowed users to stream apps -- any version of Microsoft Office, plus other applications -- to any desktop inside their firewall. SoftGrid also can be used with Microsoft's Terminal Services product to run applications that might conflict on a single server.

What's coming next on the SoftGrid front, is a change in Microsoft licensing that will enable SoftGrid to be used in both offline and online scenarios both inside and outside of the corporate firewall, said Gavriella Schuster, Senior Director in the Windows Product Group. Schuster would not say when this change is coming or what form it would take. She did say that the Office team was working through the details.

Microsft partners, however, say the plans are already in place for adding new licensing options to SoftGrid that would make it more of a head-to-head competitor with Web-based applications like Google Docs.

Said one partner, who requested anonymity: "I know for certain that Softgrid is being added to SPLA (Microsoft's Server Provider Licensing Agreement) licensing...supposedly in the October/November timeframe."

If this does come to pass, Microsoft partners would be able to offer streamed Office as a hosted service via which customers could buy Office on a usage basis.

My ZDNet blogging colleage Phil Wainewright talked to other partners who said Microsoft is planning to announce the SoftGrid licensing changes in June. One partner told him that the change "will initially be for a 12-month pilot restricted to Office Standard and Office Pro Plus," with plans to extend it to other applications.

Wainewright described the new SoftGrid streaming capabilities as "Office pay-as-you-go." Actually, Microsoft has another program in pilot that offers Office on a pay-as-you-go basis, known as the Microsoft Office Prepaid Edition. Regardless of what it's called, one thing is for certain: Microsoft is experimenting with many new ways of making its applications available beyond the old-style one-license per machine way. At the same time, however, the Redmondians are holding out from releasing a Web-based version of Office.

What do you think? Would Office streaming, via which online/offline access is available, and users are charged on a per-usage basis for Office, catch on?

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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12 comments
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  • Softgrid a bit of a red herring here ...

    As I understand it, Softgrid currently still only works in a LAN environment rather than over the Web (the new version that extends it to the Web is probably what's slated for October/November), So if the SPLA is going to be changed in June (which is the proposal that I've been shown) then it will be used first with third party streaming products rather than Softgrid.

    Microsoft publicly isn't saying anything definitive about this yet, but it is talking to partners via private channels and that is the material that has been shown to me. It might still get pulled or deferred, but there seems to be some momentum building up now.
    phil wainewright
  • What Microsoft will say?

    As the primary founder once said, "There won't be anything we won't say to people to try and convince
    them that our way is the way to go."

    See many other interesting quips here:

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/b/bill_gates.html

    http://www.billgatesmicrosoft.com/

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bill_Gates

    http://www.quotesandsayings.com/gbillgates.htm
    Ole Man
    • Ha ha

      You beat me too it ;-)
      fr0thy2
  • After MS balked on their DRM music...

    site, which could cost many people music they have already paid for, why would anyone trust services provided by MS in this manner.

    What happens when they decide it's not as profitable as they would like and decide to kill the service. You've paid them all this money and then you have nothing to show for it. No applications to manage all of the documents you've invested in. Hopefully the doc's will at least be stored on your local system. Then you get to go out and pay a premium price for the boxed software.
    bjbrock
    • DRM

      Ok, goo That's very positive posting, to say more, you can call on LINK with really fine stuff to examine http://recipecentra.us
      bobdoskaen4
  • RE: Office streaming: What Microsoft will and won't say

    Microsoft does have Office Live extensions and they do have Silverlight delivering .NET apps to the web that are streaming (that go beyond a web application version that actually brings real .NET framework to run them in a web browser). Silverlight certainly supports streaming and has it's own .NET runtime.

    Even Adobe's in the web apps game with Photoshop Express..

    Microsoft does love selling subscriptions, MSDN, Technet, and the new Expression Studio Professional Subscription.

    So who knows, I do know when Microsoft does offer something online it won't be "half baked" with limited features like many others out there..
    DonBurnett
  • That was yesterday's price.

    Where is the incentive for Microsoft to keep the subscription price acceptable when the customer's data is locked up in their format?
    kozmcrae
  • RE: Office streaming: What Microsoft will and won't say

    This is a very good scheme for MS, and a very bad scheme for consumers.
    MS has found a way to charge even more money for an already over valued product.
    I wouldn't gamble my livelihood on this.
    I also wouldn't gamble my network security on this.
    All in all I'd say FUD on the whole thing, and I mean it.
    Stick with secure, controllable technology.
    starcannon99022@...
  • MS in dangerous territory

    Everyone knows MS made their do-re-me by selling bundles of applications when their competitors sold individual packages. MS supersized our software, right? Well, what happens when an office of 50 can share 3 Publisher accounts? Couldn't you switch your entire company to Office basic and just rent a handful of licenses for the niche software?

    My last company was experimenting with remote desktop to the degree that we'd buy one license of some expensive software and then take turns remotely using it. Now apply that to all those fringe MS Office apps. What if you only needed 3 real MS Word licenses and everyone used OpenOffice internally? Just log into the MS server when you had to send something externally. What if you use Google docs and just rent one license of Office to test documents?

    MS needs to be careful. There are too many different threats to their old business model now: virtualization, remote sharing, online apps, etc. They won't see the huge margins they used to so they need to focus on ONE new business model and convert Office to it sooner than later.
    solomonrex
  • RE: Office streaming: What Microsoft will and won't say

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