Jan. 29 - Microsoft launches its Office 365 software for consumers, with constant updates and online access to documents as the software giant attempts to fine-tune its lucrative software for the mobile age. Conway G. Gittens reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Microsoft Office is becoming untethered. Long-used programs such as Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, and now the Skype video-calling system and a multi-media note-taking program called OneNote are cutting the cord and heading to the cloud. REPORTER STAND-UP: CONWAY G. GITTENS, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Microsoft knows the world has changed and so this very consumer-friendly push is in hopes that as consumers turn more to mobile devices and tablet they won't turn away from Windows or Office." Office 365, a subscription based service, is ready for download globally on Tuesday, costs $100 a year, can be shared among five devices, and upgrades are included - marking a change from the old upgrade and pay-as-you go policy. But protecting Office, Microsoft's most profitable product, comes down to more than just dollars and cents, says Patrick Moorehead of Moor Insights and Strategy. PATRICK MOORHEAD, PRINCIPAL ANALYST, MOOR INSIGHTS & STRATEGY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "They have had some less than stellar announcements over the last six months to a year so they really need a big hit here. They need a big hit perceptually not only with consumers but also with the industry as a whole to get a lot more respect back as a company in the consumer business." At the backbone of this strategy is mobile accessiblity. For example you can work on a document on your computer at home, save it on the cloud and then access the same document on a Windows phone or tablet - all you need is one account and one password. And that could help improve the cross-current between home and office, which is Microsoft's key market, while at the same time slowing the competitive advance of Google Docs and Google's Android-powered smartphones. Norman Young of Morningstar: NORMAN YOUNG, SENIOR EQUITY ANALYST, MORNINGSTAR (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We think it is helpful that they are actually moving in this direction. As far as the company's strategy is concerned, in the past you know I think they kind of, I don't want to say they rested on their laurels, but I think they kind of looked at their market position and did not really necessarily see the danger of the competitors coming up behind them. I think that it is more important that they are there. It may take a few quarters before we see how successful they are." But one more thing analysts say to watch - whether Microsoft decides to make Office 365 for the iPad - if they do it could broaden their audience but that could come at the expense of its struggling Surface tablet.