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This week on Monday Microsoft unveiled the latest version of its Office suite and this introduction ushers in significant communication and collaboration improvements that provide great new revenue opportunities for consultants, resellers and systems integrators.
Last week I attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, along with 16,000 other people, and that event, combined with the Office announcement this week, provided an almost unimaginable amount of new information to sort through and digest. But there is “gold” hidden in the stacks of new information.
With Monday’s announcement regarding the Office 2013 Preview, all of the core Office applications were provided with a host of new features and capabilities. Federation and deeper integration with the Office applications were the two big items that Office 2013 brings to Microsoft Lync. My recent No Jitter article provides more detail in this regard.
However, the big opportunities I see for UC consultants, resellers and systems integrators brought about by this new release of Office and Office 365 exist in five key areas:
Office 2013 supports an increased number of cloud-based and hybrid (cloud plus CPE) alternatives. Hybrid alternatives can be especially compelling (from a financial perspective) in industries that have a head office connected to a large number of branch offices. This can include opportunities in the retail, hospitality and financial services verticals.
While moving to the cloud can simplify operational duties and provide cost savings and/or cost predictability, the planning and transition to the cloud requires expertise and experience. It is not a trivial task to move an organization's document and knowledge repositories from local shares to cloud shares. Especially in hybrid deployments, synchronizing user directories and ensuring single sign-on ease-of-use is balanced with necessary security is not always straightforward.
Hybrid deployments can also require additional server roles to be deployed (for example to synchronize Active Directory) and can require existing on-premise Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and other servers be reconfigured.
Metro, the new “design language” that Microsoft introduced with Windows Phone, adopted on Xbox and now has brought to Windows 8 and the Office 2013 applications is sleek, clean and ultimately may be more easily understood by end-users.
That being said, the look-and-feel of Metro and its touch-centric interface represents a significant change for end users. While some technically-savvy users may simply adapt to Metro “on the fly,” the vast number of users will require at least some transitional coaching and likely more in-depth training to be most efficient using the new Office applications.
Microsoft has demonstrated Office running on smartphones, Windows 8 tablet devices, laptops, desktops and even the 82” multi-touch screen from Perceptive Pixels (PPI), the company Microsoft acquired last week.
New device form factors open up new use case scenarios that can be effectively serviced using the Microsoft Office suite of tools. This is especially relevant for SIs and resellers that focus on specific vertical markets.
Large screen devices may potentially replace dedicated high-definition video screens. Smaller tablets could be used around the boardroom table, in an automotive showroom or around a restaurant table carried by servers.
As noted above, Lync 2013 finally provides federation with Skype contacts. This opens new business-to-consumer use cases. To be clear, Microsoft is not suggesting that businesses make use of Skype instead of Lync. Microsoft is, however, allowing businesses using Lync to seamlessly connect and communicate with other consumers or business users who are currently using Skype. (Lync has long supported a similar federation with Windows Messenger Live users.)
Lync 2013 also supports improved video integration opportunities and for the first time Lync adds support for H.264 SVC video, arguably a more “open” standard than the current RTVideo codec. H0D video support and a new “gallery view” for video that can show up to five participant video streams introduces opportunities to bring Lync-powered video into new industries.
The new version of Office 365 allows developers to create and publish add-in applications for the new version of Office and SharePoint. Developers can make developed add-in applications available through the Office Store or through an onsite catalog, in the case of apps intended to be available only within a specific organization. Mary Jo Foley provides an overview of the new Office 365 development tools here. Jason Zander’s Visual Studio blog provides more “developer-focused” details here.
The ability to create office add-ins for both hosted and on-premise versions of Office combined with use cases supported by the new devices provides unique opportunities for developers and system integrators to drive new revenue streams with the adoption of the new Office platform.
As Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said on Monday, “This is the most ambitious release of Office that we have ever done.” Microsoft’s ambitions have yielded a tremendous number of new Office features and deployment options. Increased features provide more solution possibilities; more deployment choices can lead to more customer confusion. Consultants, resellers and systems integrators who invest the time understanding Microsoft Office 2013 will be well positioned to grow their business by leveraging the new solution options and sorting out customer confusion.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?