At the Worldwide Partner Conference last month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicted that this will be “the most epic year in Microsoft history.”
I couldn’t agree more. And, in my opinion, one of the key products and services that will contribute to the epic year that lies ahead is Office 365. As the cloud-based service enters its second year, it’s on track to become one of Microsoft’s most successful offers in history. As Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office Division, put it: “The magic of the service is in its flexibility, familiarity and breadth of options.”
As Office 365 begins year two of serving customers of all sizes, it’s admittedly still a startup, yet an incredibly successful one. Like a champion first-year baseball star, Office 365 has already racked up a whole wall of awards, successes, and distinctions that separate it from the competition. So what exactly are those first-year successes? While there are many, here are seven we’re especially proud of:
- Adoption: Since its release a little over a year ago, organizations of all sizes have flocked to Office 365. More than 90 percent of our early Office 365 customers are coming from small businesses. Yet global companies are also implementing Office 365 in large numbers as well. In fact, over 40 percent of the global Interbrand list of the 100 top brands use Office 365 or related cloud productivity services from Microsoft.
- Customer wins: This year, JetBlue, Campbell Soup, WellPoint, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Patagonia joined DuPont, Starbucks and major cities like New York and San Francisco in using Microsoft’s cloud productivity services. And today, Origin Energy, The Hilti Group, Hallmark Cards, Japan Airlines, Burger King and Renner are the latest to join the Office 365 family. Leandro Balbinot, CIO at Renner S/A, said his company chose Office 365 because Microsoft was a technology partner with a strategic vision: “We found that the competition couldn´t deliver all our requirements to the same level as that offered by Microsoft," he said.
- Awards: Office 365 won several awards in its first year on the market. For example, CRN named Office 365 among “The 15 Best Products of 2011” for the cloud services category, calling it “uber-flexible and compelling.” “It’s the real deal, and it blows away Google Apps,” CRN wrote in December. More recently, Office 365 won the “Best Cloud Service” award at the Cloud Computing World Series. The award was judged by an independent panel of industry experts, which said Office 365 delivers “powerful productivity and collaboration tools for businesses of all sizes.”
- Time-to-market: With the hard work and commitment of the Office 365 team, Microsoft built Office 365 from the ground up. Office 365 went from a limited beta into a formal release that was ready for prime time in less than nine months. By comparison, Google Apps took a full two years to move out of beta, and Gmail remained in beta for a whopping five years. I guess Google must have had other priorities.
- Market Penetration: Office 365 has spread into numerous markets very quickly. In the first four months after its release, we made Office 365 available in more than 22 markets. Today, Office 365 is offered in 88 markets and 32 languages and reaches over 4 billion people around the globe. What’s more, customers adopting Office 365 span a wide variety of industry sectors including government, education, professional services, consumer goods, retail, and others.
- Partner Ecosystem: The partner ecosystem for Office 365 has more than doubled from 16,000 to 42,000 from July 2010 to July 2011. That’s 10 times the size of Google’s partner program for Google Apps. Some examples of our partnerships: Computer Sciences Corp. is deploying Office 365 for the Federal Aviation Administration; Quest Software has been positioning itself as a Microsoft Office 365 cloud migration leader for customers that need guidance; and Infinity Technology Solutions has been promoting how value-added resellers can profit from Office 365.
- Certifications: Office 365 has already obtained several important national and global security certifications. Among them is the authority to operate under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which creates a process for federal government agencies to certify and accredit the security of their information management systems. Office 365 has also earned the IS 270001 international standard certification for security, and is compliant with the U.S.-mandated Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In addition, Microsoft has the ability to incorporate EU Model Clauses into individual agreements it holds with Office 365 customers.
While our first-year successes have been many, like any startup, the first year of Office 365 has not been without its hiccups. Customers have been slower than expected to migrate to Office 365 from Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), due to individual customer requirements.
We’ve also steadily improved the reliability of Office 365 after customers experienced some service interruptions with our old service, BPOS. As one blogger put it: “To Microsoft’s credit, the Office 365 cloud suite seems to have gotten more and more reliable since launching in June 2011. Initially, Office 365 — the successor to BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) suffered multiple outages. But more recently, chatter about Office 365 reliability concerns seems to have quieted down in the IT channel.”
A Long-Term Marriage to Our Customers
As with migration and reliability, we’re continually working to improve Office 365 to make it even more productive for our customers. And as Office 365 enters its second year, we’ve also been thinking about our long-term relationship.
It’s been said that the secret to a good marriage is to understand that “it must be total, it must be permanent, and it must be equal.” Microsoft has 20 years of expertise in the enterprise arena, and the release of Office 365 a year ago only extends that commitment. Our commitment to our customers is both total and permanent. What’s more, it is equal, meaning that we’re always listening and will continue to evolve to meet our customers’ needs and desires.
By contrast, it’s hard to determine whether Google’s commitment to its enterprise customers is either total or permanent. Google Apps for Business (GAFB) grew out of a consumer offering and does not generate a significant portion of Google’s overall income. Not surprisingly, Google once again showed a lack of innovation and investment in Google Apps for Business at its recent Google I/O conference.
As for Office 365, we’re in it for the long haul, and we look forward to a long and prosperous marriage to our customers. As Steve Ballmer declared more than two years ago when discussing Microsoft’s commitment to cloud computing, “We’re all in.”