Microsoft Office 2013 has arrived

Well it looks like just as everyone was finishing their upgrades to Office 2010, a new one is just around the corner. You can check it out now from Microsoft.

I think the most interesting thing about this release is the changes in collaboration. It’s much more real-time and online (thanks to SkyDrive or SharePoint integration by default). By default is what’s interesting here. It’s certainly part of a bigger trend towards cloud-backed consumer-oriented services. What’s more interesting about Microsoft is they’re able to get close to pulling this off for the Enterprise too. There are lots of caveats around that, but that’s a topic for another day.

Where I think Office 2013 really has some potential is for Microsoft, not so much users. Coupled with Windows 8, which will support desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones with the same kernel (in layman’s terms: central part of the operating system), means the workflow possibilities across all your devices start to approach what Apple can do. But Microsoft has two things Apple don’t: Office and Exchange. Put simply, the integration should be (assuming internal politics at Microsoft doesn’t screw things up like they have in the past) more useful and almost as slick as Apple’s. The net result of all this will be:

  • Apple – iOS & Mac OS (both based on Darwin), all their own hardware. If Cringely is to be believed, along with removing hardware customisation. As everyone knows, this end-to-end control coupled with an unparalleled design flair currently gives Apple the edge on usability and simplicity. Apple own “consumer”.
  • Microsoft – Windows 8 everywhere; their own tablet. Microsoft need to leverage Office and Exchange across all their devices. If they do this well, Microsoft own “traditional enterprise”
  • Google – the dark horse. Android everywhere; cloud everywhere else. Maybe some merging of Android and ChromeOS, or just slicking up the whole thing. Whether they can pull off the integration (they have the pieces, but not the glue) in time is a question. They’ve got Google Apps, but that’s not a realistic Office-replacement for most enterprises. That doesn’t stop some from trying (FairFax has announced a switch to Google Apps). It will also hook the startup/smaller business crowd due to its much lower costs (particularly in non-core areas. i.e. Microsoft can suck you in with consumer-grade stuff, but their enterprise stuff adds up pretty quickly. Google’s doesn’t)

Thoughts on ‘the cloud’

So what is the cloud? Well, that’s a discussion for another time. Short version: it’s lots of things. But for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume it means shoving as much of your IT infrastructure, especially servers, onto some 3rd party who manages it for you and lots of other people in a standardised way

Over here on this LinkedIn group, I commented the below in response to SmartCompany’s recent Death of an IT guy article:

Yeah, I saw this too. Whilst I agree in general, I think this is yet another example of the cyclical nature of IT architectural solutions. Think thick-thin-thick-thin client transitions over the last 40+ years. “The cloud” can be the same. Where it gets tricky is that “the cloud” represents multiple different layers and slices across layers. i.e. virtualised infrastructure is quite a different beast from a software-as-a-service app (e.g. 37signals.com stuff). Personally, I think

Business-wise, Australia is at too much of a bandwidth disadvantage to really make much use cloud ‘infrastructure’, at least for SME’s. i.e. Most of my clients are still on prosumer ADSL2+ connections, not corporate bandwidth, even though they may have scores of users. On-premises solutions have natural advantages. I think the main thing is actually the degree of incompetence in IT. It’s very difficult to be an incompetent cloud provider. It’s extremely simple to be an incompetent local “IT guy” or MSP. We compete against them all the time (you know the type – the guys who’ve never heard of S.M.A.R.T, think RAID is backup, have no idea how to do risk analysis let alone a technical-only DRP, rely on vendors to swap PC components, can’t do deep troubleshooting etc).

With ‘the cloud’, on average, you do buy a higher level of quality. However, in the analyses I’ve done, your peak quality & fitness for purpose are better with local infrastructure for most use cases.

Continuing this further for a more targeted SME audience, the primary technical problem is latency. Stuff just ain’t fast enough to do things like file access over an internet connection. And that’s assuming you have sufficient bandwidth (i.e. corporate-grade internet at a minimum of 10Mbits – i.e. you’re spending > $1,000/month on your link/s). The primary business problem, however, is a lack of flexibility and a level of marketing sophistication that makes it very difficult for you to compare like with like. So you virtualise your infrastructure? How do you access that virtual infrastructure? You still need PCs (even thin clients cost the same, hardware-wise). The consequences might be less, but you still need to stop them getting virused. If you’re using netboot, you need on-premises infrastructure to do this. You need switches and routers. You need serious internet bandwidth and reliability. You still need an IT guy. You still need to do a migration. And you’re paying an external company for their up to 90% gross profit margins. Are you actually better off? What happens if/when they go bust? What if you want to switch to a competitor – how easy is it to transition out of? As we’ve seen lately, the cloud isn’t without its risks either. Sure, it may be cheaper in some instances, or it may be more expensive but you don’t care because the hassles go away. But do they really?

What is an Entrepreneur?

I was recently asked by CEO Blog Nation what it means to be an Entrepreneur. It’s a question I’ve often asked myself and one I find there are multiple answers to. The answer I gave was:

The derivation of the word ‘Entrepreneur’ is ‘one who undertakes’. To me, this means not just one who begins something, but one who does so in the face of adversity and ridicule; against “accepted” wisdom and with only secondary regard to economics. It is a highly intuitive thing. Logic has its place, but in “filling the gaps” not driving the strategy. It means being extremely comfortable with risk, yet viewing the undertaking of such risk, in aggregate, as less risky than not doing so. I started my business to perpetually fund innovative ideas so I would be free of the shackles of traditional investors’ anti-entrepreneurial demands.

Here’s another 21 to ponder.