When Office dies, what will Microsoft replace it with?

When Office dies, what will Microsoft replace it with?

Summary: Nothing lasts forever. Office may be a huge money-spinner for Microsoft, but what's next?

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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Skype logo
Skype. More Office-y than Office.

Nothing lasts forever.

History is replete with examples of products that have fallen into obsolescence. Some examples? How about VHS recorders, typewriters, quill pens, CDs, photographic film, movie rental stores, public pay phones, and so on.

As a society, we like finding new ways to do stuff.

So although the Office franchise seems unassailable in its vast ubiquity (well, for business use anyway), will it last forever? Obviously not -- something will happen to kill it off.

Sliding

If you're Microsoft, what do you replace Office with? Or rather, what do you replace office revenues with? Replacing a product when it becomes obsolete isn't an issue of just evolving the product -- it's about pivoting so that you produce a different kind of product for a different kind of market.

We know that Microsoft wants to become a different kind of business -- namely a device and services business. What they want to do is take Office over to that new business with them.

I think that idea is fundamentally flawed because post-PC devices are not about work, they are about a user's "digital life", and as such Office only has as small role to play in this for a subset of users. That's the pressure of a creeping obsolescence in the post-PC era.

Take BlackBerry as an example. At the moment, it's looking like the only product they have which is appealing to the market of the post-PC era is BBM. Even then BBM is under significant pressure from WhatsApp, LINE, iMessage, Google Hangouts, and others -- all of which are more mature products that BBM is trying to compete with.

BlackBerry had an enterprise capability that was unassailably good, but over time people worked out they could get a roughly good enough equivalent elsewhere. BlackBerry used to offer the only practical way of getting emails when mobile. BlackBerry's distinction used to be great management (BES was doing MDM before we started talking about MDM), and a secure network. That distinction used to be significant, and now its not because it went through a process of steadily being chipped away over time. Once people learn that they can do without a certain thing, the job of purveying that certain thing becomes harder.

Similarly with Office, that used to be the only tool in town for the enterprise, and now it's not. Plus, the distinction of Office is that it can do anything and everything. Other products aren't quite a kitchen sink-esque. But, if you learn to make do with a small subset of features -- well, that's starting to look rather like BlackBerry's problem again.

Anyway, my view is that Office is on a slide. But that's OK if you have something to replace it with.

Next

I do think Microsoft has got a fantastic product that it can use to replace Office.

It's Skype.

Purchased in May 2011 for $8.5 billion, Skype fits so much more elegantly into the post-PC era than Office that I can easily see Microsoft's dominant product lines being Windows and Skype, rather than Windows and Office.

(Readers may care to note that the Nokia deal only cost $7.2 billion.)

Our current post-PC era is all about relationships and not about work and as a result Skype is a much better fit. (You can't use Skype without having someone to talk to or with, after all.)

It also works for both domestic and business use. My ZDNet colleague Larry Dignan wrote at the beginning of this year how high-end video conferencing kit was being disrupted by things like Skype. This is the first dimension of its ubiquity. And it's an easy ubiquity. Yes, Office can be made to work in domestic settings, but for most people it makes little sense. With Skype, someone can flow from using it at the office to using it at home without heartache.

The other genius move Microsoft has made is to get Skype everywhere -- this being the second dimension of its ubiquity. I wonder how much of this is judgement rather than luck -- after all, Microsoft seems to be keeping (proper) Office as a Windows exclusive rather than getting their finger out and getting it working in full over on iOS and Android, whereas Skype was already on everything when they bought it.

It doesn't matter what device you use, where you are, or "when" you are, Skype is there with you. This maintains two important rules of post-PC offerings -- namely be "always available", and "always connected".

Peculiarly though, although we know that BlackBerry's transition from being an enterprise business to being an "everyone" business failed, the only thing they do that makes any sense is BBM. Which is rather like Skype in that BBM and Skype are both good relationship-centric, post-PC products.

What BlackBerry mucked up with BBM was letting competitors get successful. BBM isn't the best on the market anymore, and as a company it's unlikely BlackBerry has any clout left to become top dog again. (This becomes an unwinnable scenario if a major player acquires one of the instant messaging platforms.)

Skype, today, is in the fortunate position of being the only game in town and gets to enjoy all of the network benefits that provides.

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Topic: Microsoft

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104 comments
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  • And the biggest problem with Skype

    is Microsoft bugging it.

    Making it something not to be trusted.
    jessepollard
    • exactly, Microsoft needs to die to clear the rotten air full of corruption

      just fackts from print:

      "
      NSA has total access via Microsoft Windows!!!!!!!! - you will never be safe with Windows!

      German government warns of Windows 8.

      Microsoft's former chief privacy adviser after NSA ordeal: 'I don't trust Microsoft now'

      Microsoft's dirty game - rough harassment of the independent journalist trying to uncover the real Windows world!

      Do you know how does Microsoft earn money? Through a bribery in Slovakia, Czech republic, Hungary, ..... How much money does Microsoft have in governments' contracts all around the world??

      Microsoft bribery probe enters Russia, Pakistan.

      And some another corruption and bribing.

      Again another bribing in Italy, Romania, China.

      Because of corruption in Slovakia (by Microsoft) you can not pay taxes without Windows!

      Skype with care – Microsoft is reading everything you write.

      And this is GREAT! example how Microsoft lies lies lies to push Windows in every government (Munich, Germany).

      And here is the response of Munich proving Microsoft is just a liar and briber. Beautiful example how Microsoft is taking control over governments.....fortunately unsuccessful in this particular case.

      BEWARE OF Microsoft! trying to bribe US officials to go after Google because Microsoft is not able to compete anymore: "Supposedly Penn has been going around Washington trying to recruit consultants, telling them that Microsoft has armed him with a 50 million budget to go after Google."

      Greedy Microsoft - Because of the trust Apple+Microsoft+Adobe you have to pay more for IT in Australia!!

      Microsoft earns probably more money from Android with blackmailing Android producers through ridiculous patents than from his mobile operating system Windows Phone.

      Microsoft bribes Best Buy staff to slam Mac and Linux.

      With Skype forget about privacy!! The same with other Microsoft products, Windows??

      Microsoft has no privacy rules, gives your personal data to everyone who asks!!
      "
      anywherehome
      • facts ;)

        facts ;)
        anywherehome
        • Yes, the NSA really does have a backdoor into Skype

          If you want facts, read the article in The Guardian newspaper, titled:

          "Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages"

          You can do a news search on that headline phrase and then read the whole story.

          To sum up, Microsoft handed Skype's encryption keys to the NSA, which allows the NSA to tap into Skype whenever it wants. This action by Microsoft means there is nothing private on Skype. If you launch Skype, then you are inviting the NSA onto your computer or phone.
          Vbitrate
          • of course

            I agree, it was just a typing correction facts for fackts :)
            anywherehome
          • We knew Skype was no longer secure

            .. when the fringe elements began abandoning it. It was them, who made Skype popular and that happened only because it had certain non-centralized aspects, that made it suitable for more secure communication. Microsoft "re-engineered" all of that and today's Skype has nothing to do with that of the past.
            danbi
      • (Sigh)

        Yeah, that's it.
        Hallowed are the Ori
        • yes, see the links published over the whole world ;)

          yes, see the links published over the whole world ;)

          https://sites.google.com/site/corpsins/

          Microsoft is the most rotten IT company in the world = just CORRUPTION everywhere
          anywherehome
          • Not even close!

            That would be Google whose entire business model is scummy to the core.
            jhammackHTH
          • you just lie

            ? what? that Google collects data you use the great services for free? youre not pressed to use Google, you just lie and dont care about NSA or Microsoft corruption......so you should read more to understand the world ;)
            anywherehome
          • you just lie

            Google gives us great services for free for they ad business..... you can pay to any one else and just don't use google ;)
            anywherehome
          • Facts?

            "Microsoft earns probably more money from Android...."

            Probably? What kind of "fact" is that?
            Hallowed are the Ori
          • yes, Microsoft blackmails and intimidate

            Microsoft steals 2 billions (profit 95 %) every year from Android meanwhile losing from incapable WP platform ;)
            anywherehome
      • Google gives your data

        to anyone with money....point?
        Azzras
      • really?

        your comment is a full on bile vent, based on literally NOTHING. I will respond to one point though.

        > Microsoft has no privacy rules, gives your personal data to everyone who asks!

        You're basing this on absolutely nothing, but feel free to go after my data from Microsoft, apparently it's easy so you should have it in a jiffy.

        However, like every other business, ever, Microsoft are forced by law to respond to data requests from law agencies.

        Are Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Starbucks, your local grocery store any different in that respect? No, of course they're not, and you're only fooling your deluded self if you think so.

        So, where is the real problem with data privacy? Microsoft? No. NSA? Yes. And if you're not american the chances are your local lawmakers support the same practices.
        jrbrewin
        • you lie, here is the proof

          hello boy, here is the factical article youre talking about....so dont lie, deal with the facts

          http://goo.gl/sIVQa
          anywherehome
          • Proof?

            Seems to be an option piece not back up with proven facts.
            Try again! Maybe your tinfoil hat is on too tight!
            martin_js
          • deal with the fact Microsoft is full of corruption and NSA access

            yes, you should read more to recognize the reality ;)
            deal with the fact Microsoft is full of corruption and NSA access....there are thousands of articles about that
            anywherehome
      • Can you

        Back these "facts" up?
        athynz
        • deal with the facts, boy http://goo.gl/AWKfX

          deal with the facts, boy
          http://goo.gl/AWKfX
          anywherehome