Microsoft SkyDrive is one of my favourite online services – as is its close cousin Microsoft Live Mesh (which is the synchronisation tool for keeping files up-to-date between the cloud and all of your connected devices). One of my gripes with the service has always been that SkyDrive and Live Mesh online storage is completely separate, but it looks like all that is about to change with Windows 8.
Announced on the EngineeringWindows 8 blog is that the synchronisation elements of Live Mesh will be baked directly into Windows 8 and straight into SkyDrive. This is fantastic news for me and great news for all Windows users. But there are far wider implications of this change in my opinion and it all revolves around Microsoft’s Office product.
Much has been speculated about what is expected to happen with Office as Microsoft makes the transition to tablets and ARM processing; will Office be subject to the ‘Metro UI’ changes that have taken the lead on the design front of all Microsoft products recently. As tablets have become more mainstream, so too have email services, online sharing utilities (Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc) and Office has become less a “much have” application.
The creation of documents has become (or will become ever more), less important to these users – why create a document when an easy to share email can be created? Why create a spreadsheet when you can download an app that will look after your finances without you having to do any of the set up work? Our documents have become a thing of the past; modern day computer users are far more interested in photographs, web pages/blogs, apps and entertainment.
No longer do users need or want to create a 100 page document that is difficult to collaborate on, publish, share and interact with. That’s not to say that all document creation is dead; there will always be a minority and a need to create text documents and spreadsheet modelling, but the requirement has been significantly reduced as a result.
For me, on my home laptop, Word has been replaced by Microsoft Live Writer to compose my blog posts, my email editor is an application served up from my browser. Whilst I still use Excel, it’s uses are becoming less – and the application I find myself using more and more as a result in Microsoft OneNote.
OneNote is a gorgeous application that has been around for years and I’ve used a lot, but the reason or need for many users to use it has not been there. The inclusion of OneNote on the Windows Phone (and Apple iOS), platform has seen its usage rocket – I, for one, use it all of the time as a scheduling, to-do and reminders application, as well as to capture thoughts throughout the day and important snippets of information I need to keep close at hand for those just occasions. The fact that these notes are automatically synchronised with my SkyDrive really means that OneNote beats Word as my go-to application.
Microsoft have hardly given in though; they are still expected to launch a new version of Office for Windows 8 and the new WOA (Windows On ARM), tablets that may or may not be given the Metro UI treatment in its entirety. Microsoft Office for iPad is also rumoured to be just around the corner, making good on Microsoft’s stance as a “software company” first and foremost and not backing away from making those software applications relevant to only its Windows Operating System (just think how much Microsoft have made from writing their software for other platforms).
Additionally, whilst the home user market has shifted towards this ‘online’ culture of tablets and post-PC devices, enterprise and business are still required to maintain their professional approach to doing business, which means that documents need to be written, reports need to be compiled, spreadsheet modelling needs to be completed, which means those much loved Office applications are still very much in demand in this space, to be accompanied by other server tools such as SQL, SQL Reporting, Sharepoint and IIS Internet services; whether those are public or private cloud based services or more traditional ‘data centre’ set up at this time.
The way we work and create are changing and Microsoft are still making the tools and services to allow the provisioning of these changes, but they are coming at the expense of other, previously established technologies like Office that will continue to be used, but as times are changing, the elements within Office that we once saw as vital are now being replaced by other components (in the form of OneNote in particular).