Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Microsoft Office On Linux, Don't Bet on it. Office 365 though…

Linus Torvalds, the author of the Linux Kernel has often been quoted as saying that “If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I've won.” Any many speculate that the release of the Office 365 App for Google's Linux based Android mobile operating system as the culmination of that declaration.

On the Desktop Linux side, many still pine for the availability of Microsoft's Office suite without resorting to running a Windows virtual machine or fiddling with the Wine application that allows Windows programs to run in a Linux environment. Many see the lack of Microsoft's Office availability for Desktop Linux as a barrier to larger adoption of the platform, as many have been trained to believe that Microsoft Office is a necessity or the only way to go for Office Productivity software. Microsoft has spent plenty of money building that mindset, and there is no reason for them to perform a turn about. We could also debate the merits of LibreOffice all day (I personally use it and find it more than capable for everything I need in an Office suite) and that will not change the minds of the many who have it well ingrained of the “need” for the expensive and proprietary offering from Microsoft.

Now, Desktop Linux could leapfrog Apple's OS-X for PC market share by a factor of three to five or more and I would venture we still wouldn't see the traditional Office suite made available for Desktop Linux. Even with Microsoft making many of their technologies open source, leading to more cross platform compatibility, I believe its not going to happen. Regardless if the code base would be a simple port and regardless of the demand. What I see as the more likely scenario is for Microsoft to release the full paid for version of Office 365 for Desktop Linux.

Microsoft has made it clear that they are essentially done as a traditional software company in the way they began and have existed in the past. That ship has sailed and they are aggressively attempting to liberate their customers from the S.S. Traditional Microsoft Software and quickly punch their boarding pass to the S.S. Microsoft Cloud Services. We see this in every fabric of the company and they aren't shy about letting everyone know the end game. From promoting Satya Nadella from the Cloud devision to CEO, the overly aggressive push to Windows 10 and of course the Cloud based software solutions themselves.

The cloud is the latest buzz word from technology companies and make no mistake they love it. Why? Simply follow the money and its not difficult to see why all the hype over the cloud. The cloud is wonderful for share holders and the corporate bottom line, but not so great for consumers – look no further than Adobe as a shining example of why companies are so eager to embrace the cloud and salivating over its potential. In 2015, Adobe added over 800,000 new subscribers to their Creative Cloud offerings for the fourth quarter, which resulted in them more than doubling their profits from the prior year[1][2]. Now that we're thinking money, lets get back to Office 365 on Linux. The least expensive option for Office 365 Home is $69.99 a year[3]. Now, if they convince 30,000 desktop Linux users to go with this plan, thats over $2,000,000 a year from Linux users (at this particular option level). Now that might not seem like much for a company with nearly 100 Billion in revenue[4] but the numbers start getting interesting if the new subscribers start reaching the hundred thousands or millions. Another factor to consider is that the typical Desktop Linux user with a a smart phone is not likely running Microsoft's Mobile Operating System. Personally, I would venture to guess that the number of Windows Mobile users in Desktop Linux land is probably close enough to zero to be a rounding error at best. With this line of thinking, Office 365 being available on Linux would be somewhat of a must have to try and sell it this demographic of Mobile users as something that runs on both the mobile and desktop operating system of their liking. Plus you can also look at (from Microsoft's perspective) Office 365 as a Gateway to other Microsoft services that breeds lock in and dependence on the company's offerings and now we can start to see more revenue potential for the accountants to mill over.

Will we see an Office 365 for Desktop Linux? Only time will tell. One thing that is more of a sure bet is that we will likely begin to see the complete demise of the traditional software licensing model from large software companies in favor of cloud subscriptions. It personally wouldn't surprise me if Office 2016 is the last standard type Office released from the Microsoft camp. The cloud integration and push could be seen starting with Office 2013, and while I haven't used or demoed Office 2016 there is no reason to expect anything other than more features meant to move users into Office 365.