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Who Needs It?

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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  • 1 Hide
    cadder , June 1, 2009 10:23 PM
    Web-based apps have very poor performance, even for something as simple and basic as email. Software on your own computer will always perform better and be more responsive, as well as have many more capabilities. Not to mention eliminate the continual problems almost all users have with internet access and remote server reliability. I will continue to purchase software to run on my own computer independent of web access.
  • 2 Hide
    wicko , June 1, 2009 11:30 PM
    You know, when I first read the title, the first thing that came to my mind was "Microsoft's Big Piece of Shit". ME, is that you?
  • -2 Hide
    bob boblaw , June 2, 2009 1:28 AM
    Can Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) reignite our hope-strewn love affair with cloud computing?

    Who is the "our" in this? I don't recall ever liking cloud computing. Or is that thoughtcrime?
  • 3 Hide
    descendency , June 2, 2009 6:14 AM
    cadderWeb-based apps have very poor performance, even for something as simple and basic as email.

    Poor application design. Actually, your own example is the worst you could have picked. ANY application you use for email could be easily written to use the same UI as a Silverlight application. While the software is not local to your machine, the computing will be. So, the only real loss will be at loading time for the application (which if done well will be minimal). The rest would be identical (as a matter of fact, if the code is written in a .NET language already, it could be nearly directly ported to Silverlight... so saying it would be identical would be dead on.). Just because the install isn't local doesn't mean the processing can't be.

    Gaming will require a major boost in internet speed before it can be offloaded successful (because sending huge amounts of textures, models, and other media just isn't possible across the average cable connection yet). The only applications that can't be ported are ones where massive data transmission is required constantly. However, applications like MS Word will be easy to port especially if the files are all stored local.

    Let me give you an example of a RIA (rich internet application) you use without even realizing it... If you do any online shopping, you use a RIA. How many desktop applications do you own for shopping on the internet? Zero? Yea. That's because when a RIA is designed well enough, the "desktop applications are better" mentality is foolish.
  • 1 Hide
    matt2k , June 2, 2009 7:04 AM
    is it just me or does this just look like a business version of google wave?
  • -3 Hide
    Heyw00d , June 2, 2009 10:55 AM
    I'm with wicko = BPoS = Big Piece of Shit!
  • 1 Hide
    NeatOman , June 2, 2009 4:26 PM
    The matter of fact is simple... Right now you don't own you OS or the Software on it, and it can (has been) change at any time without your consent. That is because like stated in the article, you do not own the software and as with any license it can be taken away. This is just the next step where they want to get you to give up you physical computer and only give you a terminal.

    The reality is that there really is very little if no benefit from "cloud" computing, and the only reason no one could figure out what the benefits were is because there are non for the user.
  • 2 Hide
    lordfisch , June 2, 2009 5:44 PM
    NeatOmanThe reality is that there really is very little if no benefit from "cloud" computing, and the only reason no one could figure out what the benefits were is because there are non for the user.

    Other than, you know, costing a small fraction of local versions. And never having to update. And never having to deal with a hijacked license. And not having artificial "install limits." And not carrying around countless boxes of install CDs. And not, and not, and not...
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , June 2, 2009 6:38 PM
    in order to support cloud for ALL applications and games,the internet needs to change and become at least 10 times, if not 100 times faster than it currently can.
    Also limitations of 15GB/month need to go. bandwidth limitations need to go in order to get cloud working.

    I see only cloud computing working in lower performing apps,not in games or video.
  • 1 Hide
    erichlund , June 2, 2009 9:54 PM
    Performance and quality may be issues today, but cloud computing will mature over time. However as a user in a classified environment, and even for users in a sensitive business environment, there are times when you just don't want your information attached to the internet. That means dedicated apps. So, where the author cannot think on one reason, I certainly can.
  • 0 Hide
    descendency , June 2, 2009 11:07 PM
    NeatOmanThe reality is that there really is very little if no benefit from "cloud" computing

    No piracy.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 3, 2009 1:00 AM
    I good concept, but realistically it has already been achieved, maybe not in the same way, but close to it. Think of Google groups,basically it is like share point services. You can chat with members of your group, get access to Email using Gmail and use Googles online apps, like its version of word, excel and so fourth, which can be posted and accessed through the google groups module. I think the real benefit here is no piracy, which works in Microsoft's favor and in the future will probably eliminate it, when and if they go all online with there office software suits. Realistically I think it won't work to well especially in country areas, where Internet Infrastructure doesn't have the best reliability. Relying on an Internet connection alone for any Business is a risk and some can't afford down time and that is where Microsoft can't guarantee the up time. Personally I wouldn't out lay IT support to Microsoft or any other online resource, simply because you don't know who has access to it or controls where the data is kept and you can't be certain that backups will occur and will restore properly if a disaster does occur. A cheap and cost effective option is definitely correct.

  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 3, 2009 12:48 PM
    I was thinking that BPOS actually stands for Big Piece of s***. :D 

    I mean seriously, in the day of every corporation selling your information to other corporations and Chinese hackers getting into everything, the last thing you want to do is to move all this stuff online and into someone else's trust.

    I mean seriously, what is everyone's malfunction? CPU power is increasing far faster than bandwidth, why the hell do you want to put everything you do with computers in the cloud? The only reason they are spinning this idiotic crap as a good idea is because it makes them richer, gives them more control over usage and allows them to steal your content. Get a grip, cloud computing is not in your best interest as an end user.
  • 1 Hide
    onesloth , June 3, 2009 6:42 PM
    CloudNinerCPU power is increasing far faster than bandwidth...

    Which means either more powerful computers for the same price OR cheaper smaller computers that can still run all the hosted software.
  • 1 Hide
    ThePatriot , June 3, 2009 10:28 PM
    The cloud can now be defined as a local cloud and an external cloud. Virtualization in combination with cloud computing is already happening with specific cloud providers. Mostly large multinationals are usin and developing it. It is here and it is here to stay. And with 120Mbps now available for consumers (in the EU) for about 60 euros per month and no caps, the cloud is coming to you, well in the EU that is.
  • 0 Hide
    grenet , June 5, 2009 1:06 AM
    I wonder if consumers truly understand the what paying a monthly (or yearly) fee to "rent" the use of software means for THEM?

    Have they thought of what happens if they need to write a letter and their ISP is down?

    What about if they decide they no longer want to pay through the nose every month for an Office application that they use occasionally - surprise! They can no longer read any of the documents they created while "renting" the use of the application.

    Sure it's great for businesses - they can keep their hands permanently in your pockets - a steady income stream for them, but its a really, really BAD idea for users.

    It's like with Vista and Windows 7 - people are talking about all the wrong things. The IMPORTANT thing about all Microsoft OSs after XP SP2 is that they are Spyware and Controlware (even XP SP3, which was a desperate effort to sneak some spyware/controlware onto XP when MS realized that people were opting to keep XP instead of buying into the Vista boondoggle).

    Windows "LIVE" anything is the same song - spyware and controlware. It gives MS an entry into your computer.

    People get caught up in silly "how fast is it" and such trivia as that - they seem to ignore the fact that Microsoft CEO's goal is to move money from their pockets into Microsoft's and to wrest control of the PC from the user and put it into Microsoft's (and "cooperating vendor's" hands.

    Wake up people! Forget the trivia - look at the BIG PICTURE! Your privacy, autonomy, and control of your own PC and software is at stake.

    I will use XP SP2 as long as I can, but when XP SP2 ceases to serve me, I'm moving to Linux - I refuse to put MS spyware/controlware, in the guise of an operating system, on my PC. And so-called "cloud computing" is a joke on the user. And software vendors are laughing all the way to the bank.

  • 1 Hide
    Marcus52 , June 5, 2009 6:51 PM
    Bleh the 'current economic climate' is temporary; just as with every other recession, Americans and the world will go back to SUVs and 12 mpg high-end hot rods.

  • 1 Hide
    blackmancer , June 6, 2009 2:15 PM
    /input Microsoft BPOS
    /output Microsoft Big Pile Of Shizenhauzen
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 9, 2009 1:23 AM
    It's funny how negative people are about something like Exchange Server hosting. While it does give me a bit of pause to put my information up on a server, I know how terribly expensive Exchange is, what a resource hog it is, and how much babysitting it requires. It's why Exchange Hosting was done before. And it's why there are web hosting services.

    Not everyone wants to be responsible for hosting IIS or Apache, and Exchanger Server or sendmail, and having to be constantly, vigilantly paranoid 24/7. Small businesses generally don't have dedicated IT managers, and sometimes hosting solutions make sense. I really do wish people would pull the "cloud" out of what's basically a mail and webdav hosting solution.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 12, 2009 1:34 PM
    This is a fantastic tool for corporations, I am in charge of help desk for a company with 1000+ employees, 95% of the are technically inept. I could only imagine having the ability to just open a browser and they have microsoft office, instead of having to install it locally, with registry and services you have a lot of room for failure. Corruption is really easy right now. With a hosted application you just keep the server up, and if it's anything like Sharepoint and Exchange, it's going to be a set it and forget it, if a service fails restart it and it works again. And with ALOT of business getting 100/1000mbit to the internet now this totally makes since. My building gets 1000mbit for $2500 a month. And it's only going to get cheaper. This is a very smart move on Microsoft's part.
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