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Friday, January 21, 2005

Microsoft Repositions Office As Development Platform

Targeted at SMBs and consumers, Outlook Live gives users a single place to view and manage e-mail accounts, contacts, and calendars, along with more advanced e-mail tools provided by Office Outlook. Outlook Live marks the first time a Microsoft Office product has been made available as a downloadable subscription service. Joe Wilcox comes again with an incisive analysis on microsoft's recent moves and concludes "Microsoft repositions office as a development platform". Excerpts with edits and my comments added:

Microsoft announced release of Office Outlook Live, a subscription service developed jointly between the MSN and Office groups. Outlook Live shadows some of the proposed services planned for HailStorm, which Microsoft abandoned some years ago. Consumers signing up for Outlook Live pay an annual subscription fee and get access to the broader Hotmail features,including beefy 2GB storage, and a big bonus: A copy of trimmed down Outlook 2003 for fairly low cost. Users would then have offline access to e-mail, calendars and contacts, in addition to Hotmail's online benefits.Microsoft has repositioned Office as a development platform like Windows and would like to encourage developers to extend the applications' utility. Since its inception, Outlook has been a development environment, particularly through forms and similar capabilities. But providing capability doesn't mean that hordes of developers harnessed the platform potential, which is now more important than ever to Microsoft's long-term product strategy.
To achieve it's strategic goals, Microsoft needs to encourage more Outlook adoption. While Microsoft offers legitimate benefits to Live subscribers, the program also could be viewed as an Outlook 2003 seeding program, which would benefit some of Microsoft's long-term platform development objectives. Scenario: Home users like outlook and ask them to be installed at work and office workers liking outlook installing outlook at home.

MSN desktop search. Desktop search's real value is e-mail-and instant messaging, for those who archive. Microsoft's MSN Search beta plugs into Outlook, where it offers fairly rapid results. And what happens when-not if-Microsoft offers more unified desktop and Web search? Outlook/Hotmail are in place.Related is Google e-mail competition. Already, MSN upped its storage capacity to counter GMail. One of GMail's perceived benefits is search, using Google capabilities to comb through e-mail. Through Outlook Live, Microsoft can bring similar benefits to paid-Hotmail subscribers-but on desktop. Users get the Web-based utility of a HotMail or GMail, plus offline access to e-mail, calendars and contacts and the ability to search Outlook via MSN desktop search tool. Granted, other desktop search utilities comb through Outlook, too, but it's a fair bet Microsoft will offer extensible capabilities. Instant messaging and smartphones are areas microdoft want to have abig presence through windows/office platform. .
Greg Linden counters by saying.One may want to search every website one has ever seen. Very useful when one know he saw something on the web before but can't remember where. This is where desktop search needs to go to bring real value. One should be able to search and easily find again anything one ever saw on my computer before.Google Desktop Search does search browsing history (unfortunately only for IE), and Microsoft's Stuff seen project suggests we'll be seeing steps in this direction from MSN soon too.
As other Microsoft products or services extend Outlook's utility beyond businesses, the need increases to get more consumers using the software. Outlook Live accomplishes this goal, while, of course, bringing legitimate user benefits Very valid login , reasoning and slowly microsoft plans are coming out one after another.

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