The old paradigm of on-site servers and applications is so ingrained that many people question why they would want a hosted software service at all. If the old model ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve already examined one answer from a high-level cost standpoint. But another, somewhat related answer is that SPS can be more flexible in the types of services and features offered. As a case in point, let’s look at the Deskless Worker product.
With conventional software models, and even the standard BPOS subscription licenses, it’s assumed that a client installation receives full functionality. Buy an Exchange client, for example, and you get a full version of Outlook alongside compatibility with a range of alternative clients. All of Outlook’s functionality is part of what constitutes the Exchange CAL price. But what if the user doesn’t need all of that functionality? Under traditional models, it didn’t matter. Client licensing was (and remains) an all or nothing affair.
But what if a business has employees that don’t need all of that functionality? Retail employees typically don’t. Their job is to be on their feet assisting customers, yet employers still want them to have access to things like daily corporate communications, sales incentives, new product information, training videos, and so on. The old way to handle such matters was to stuff fliers in a bank of mailboxes or pay employees overtime to attend group meetings. The more recent approach has been to give such employees computer access with full client software licenses, figuring that the final ROI was still better than older methods.
With a cloud model, though, we take a step closer to having a la carte feature subscriptions. Businesses can already pick and choose which Microsoft Online Services titles they want if a full BPOS subscription isn’t needed. Similarly, when you figure that all functionality is being offered up from remote data centers, there’s no technical reason why users shouldn’t be able to have more granular control over which functions they want and should pay for within a program. Whether marketers decide such granularity is a good idea or not remains to be seen, but the Deskless Worker option sure seems to be a step in this direction.
Microsoft talks about Deskless Worker being for “task workers” rather than “information workers.” These people need to receive information in order to do their jobs well, but they generally don’t need to add information or carry on exchanges with the information group, not do they need access on a daily basis. This is why managers can opt to give such users read-only access via the Deskless Worker Suite, giving them partial Exchange and SharePoint functionality for only $3 per month—only 20% of a full BPOS subscription.
Could this sort of scaled down client be devised under the traditional paradigm? Sure. But that would be another set of lower profit SKUs for distributors and resellers to pack into an already crowded roster. The direct model enabled through cloud computing makes such derivative versions easy to create, distribute, and use. Expect more examples of this to appear in the future.