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

Who Needs It?

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.

  • cadder
    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.
  • wicko
    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?
  • bob boblaw
    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?
  • descendency
    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.
  • matt2k
    is it just me or does this just look like a business version of google wave?
  • Heyw00d
    I'm with wicko = BPoS = Big Piece of Shit!
  • NeatOman
    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.
  • lordfisch
    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...
  • 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.
  • erichlund
    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.