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Microsoft’s BPOS: Cloud Computing’s Silver Lining?

We’ve now spent a fair bit of time with BPOS and tried to consider it from several angles, always asking if it really is better than the software model we’ve been using for the last two decades. Ultimately, we had to make the difficult admission that not only is it better, we’re bitter that there’s a 5-user license minimum. No doubt, Microsoft has some single-user cloud solution waiting in the wings for when its data centers are running at full steam, but we remain impatient.

We kept asking ourselves, “why pay hundreds of dollars for a single license of Office that you’re going to replace every three years when you could simply subscribe to the software for pennies on the dollar?” And we could only come up with one answer: because we have this traditional, often irrational fascination with owning something. We feel that if we can hold it, we control it and it’s a part of us.

But read the fine print on your Microsoft software. In reality, you’ve never owned it. You’ve licensed it. There’s no more control over a boxed application than a cloud-based service. This was the hardest part for us to swallow, this idea that, logically, there is no inherent benefit to traditional software models. We couldn’t think of a single reason why an average person under real-world circumstances wouldn’t be better off with software as a service provided the look, feel, and functionality of the cloud app was identical to its packaged counterpart...except one.

Every person and company has its share of legacy apps, those old accounting packages, games, editing software, and whatnot that came and went. The companies behind these apps may be dead, but the software CD lives on and keeps migrating to new PCs. But if we’re talking about a major title from a major vendor that you know you’re going to keep using for years and years to come, then yes, the box makes no sense. Alternatively, a person or company may not want a long-term commitment to an application or platform. The situation is similar to leasing a car. In such cases, a software as a service model like the one behind BPOS is ideal.

Our current economic climate is forcing everyone to search for ways to be more efficient for less money. Whether you want to look at it from an IT, service, security, operations, licensing, deployment, or any other perspective, BPOS delivers the same or better functionality as conventional enterprise Office tools for far less money. In any economy, BPOS would be persuasive. In this one, it seems practically essential.

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