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Microsoft's Office 365 strategy blurs lines between desktop, mobile

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Office 365 strategy is decidedly cloud-first and mobile-first, but how well has Microsoft fared in making this happen?

While the roadmap for Microsoft's Office 365 strategy is still shaking out, there is little doubt that it is cloud-first and mobile-first. But how well is that strategy working?

The Office 365 suite of applications -- which includes SharePoint, Skype videconferencing, Microsoft Office and Exchange, and a host of other applications -- is a set of productivity applications designed to help team members work on projects in common and collaborate along the way. These applications have gradually moved into the cloud to enable workers to work from anywhere, whether they are in the office, traveling for work or simply away from their desk on a mobile device.

But truly enabling this productivity required some re-engineering of applications to enable the shift from desktop to mobile and cloud. Indeed, Microsoft has had fits and starts in making the transition to a mobile-first approach. Transitioning to a mobile-centric set of applications hasn't been seamless, particularly once Microsoft moved to Windows 8, its desktop operating system. But now, with Office 365, the strategy is to shift to a mobile-first, cloud-first approach.

"The attempt was to try to blur the line between mobile and in-the-office devices, because [Microsoft was] looking to the cloud," Scott Robinson, a SharePoint and business intelligence expert, says. "The Office 365 cloud is Microsoft's all-in-bid to retain its hold on the business world. Amazon was eating their lunch in the cloud. They wanted to take their huge success in Office apps and translate it into the cloud in a way that people would receive, and Windows 8 didn't get them there. Because they hadn't found that bridge between desktop and mobile."

If Microsoft initially stumbled with its transition of the operating system to the cloud, Robinson says, it's making progress today with its Office 365 strategy. The premise is to engineer all applications to work in the cloud and on mobile devices, so it has taken some time to retool desktop apps such as Windows 8. But ultimately, Robinson says, the goal is to make applications cloud- and mobile-friendly, then bring that engineering to existing desktop apps.

"The idea is to make Office 365 utterly mobile-friendly so that everyone will want to use it," Robinson says. "The entire point of putting Microsoft Office in the cloud is so that people can use it from everywhere. To have two separate operating systems no longer makes sense."

Now, as Microsoft develops new capabilities, including enhanced search and even machine learning through Delve, the question will become how the Office 365 strategy for mobile and cloud evolves.

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