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Microsoft Businesses Software Upgrades IT

A New Version of MS Office Every 90 Days 292

Billly Gates writes "It appears Microsoft is following Chrome's agile development model like Mozilla did. At a recent tech conference, Kurt DelBene, president of the Office division, said they have mechanisms in place to update Office on a quarterly basis. Of course to get these new wondrous features and bugfixes you have to have a subscription to Office 365. Are the customers who most prefer subscriptions (corporate) going to want new things in the enterprise every 90 days? It is frustrating to see so many of them still on IE 7, XP, and Office 2003, which hurts Windows and Office sales and holds back innovation. At the same time, the accountants notice significant savings by keeping I.T. costs down with decade/semi decade updates to their images, while I.T. only puts out fires in between. Will this bring change to that way of doing things, or will Microsoft's cloud offerings with outsourced Exchange and Sharepoint make up for it using cost savings and continually updated software in the enterprise?"
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A New Version of MS Office Every 90 Days

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  • by recoiledsnake ( 879048 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:03PM (#43057225)

    There was no agile development before Chrome or what? There's pretty much no comparison here.

  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:17PM (#43057323) Homepage

    If Microsoft can provide corporations a written guarantee that the updates won't break any of the custom programming those corporations use in their applications and documents, it'll fly. The reason corporate IT doesn't update often is they have all these business-critical things lurking, macros used in spreadsheets, document templates, custom internal applications, that must work, and they need to check that updates don't break those things before they can roll the updates out.

    You aren't going to be able to sell business on something, even if the price is lower, if it isn't going to give them anything they aren't already getting and it'll increase the costs associated with the business being down while IT fixes what the latest update broke.

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:18PM (#43057325)

    Just because someone else is doing something and they have a popular product does not mean that everything they do is a good idea. Rapid release cycles are a prime example of this as they are extremely antagonistic to enterprise / corporate environments. These environments like something called stability and they are far more interested in a predictable and bug free experience that the latest shiny new thing.

    In addition to issues of stability there are also issues of management, when you have a rapid release cycle it is a strain on your IT department as they have to devote a /lot/ more time proportionally to a given product than they otherwise would. Time means money and that means costs and a desire to switch to something that doesn't require constant babysitting.

    Time spent by staff learning what changed in /this/ cycle versus the previous one from a few months ago is time that could have been spent on other things. Employees constantly need hand holding on the latest changes and that requires a lot of time. Nobody likes that and it means that the staff that support the product start to resent the product and want it gone.

    Attention whore products are ones that irritate everyone and that is a /really/ bad thing if you want your product to stay in that environment. This is an epically stupid idea and one that needs to be relegated the dustbin of history sooner than later.

  • Postponing costs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:22PM (#43057353)

    The problem with the described model (keeping the same software version for years) is that if at some point you're forced to change, that change will be HUGE. Files become unreadable, and anything that's beyond pushing the mouse will require retraining.

    The changes in monthly updates (probably for all software used at a desk) will fit in a medium sized email.

    So by sticking to old software, often you're not saving costs, but rather postpone costs. (Assumed there is an automated rollout tool and you don't have to upgrade a few hundered PCs by sneakernet every time a new browser patch comes out)

    By the way: the lack of centralized software/update management is one of my windows pet peeves. Even the smalles file compare tool tends to clutter your system with a specialized update agent that tends to pop up in the middle of your WOW raids or whatever else causes maximum grieve for you.

  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:24PM (#43057361)

    The summary implies it is accountants that keep IT from upgrading, but last time I checked, accounts don't control IT's budget, IT does. There is only so much money available, if IT decides to use it for development or new hardware instead of upgrading Office or Windows, why blame the accountants? Why blame anybody?

    Office used to be called a productivity suite. Since Office 2003, have the end user productivity gains associated with new versions offset the cost to upgrade and retrain? Probably not. Maybe, IT, like the accountants are looking at ROI and finding that there is much more bang for the buck elsewhere in the system than in Office.

    Just a thought.

  • by jonfr ( 888673 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:38PM (#43057439) Homepage

    This is planned obsolescence. As such it is a bad model as they always are. But this is no surprise at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:39PM (#43057447)

    That sounds great but in the real world there are ugly cludges and people doing things they shouldn't. Don't just blow it off as " you do it wrong, tough".

  • MS are idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bored ( 40072 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @08:57PM (#43057529)

    Don't they know IBM is still selling mainframes? Wanna know why? Its not because they are these mythic beasts capable of running your IT needs at 100x the performance (they can't) or because they are an inexpensive solution. IBM continues to sell mainframes because its less expensive for big enterprises to rewrite software they have literally spent tens/hundreds of millions of dollars on since the 1960s. They don't have to rewrite that software because a modern mainframe can pretty much still run the same code, and users trained in the 60's,70's, etc, don't need retraining.

    For some reason MS has failed to understand that every time they update their UI, or break some portion of their applications, they upset their core user base which is now business. All the cool trendy people have moved to Apple, the hardcore geeks to linux, the gamers are on ps/xboxes/etc, and the agnostic grandmas are being converted to apple/android devices.

    The only remaining user base is the captive one. If MS continues to make it hard to upgrade, either in the form of retraining, or breaking application compatibility (requiring everyone to upgrade their entire software stack), they will soon be written into the dustbin of failed computer companies.

  • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:09PM (#43057605)

    All in all, $100 *is cheap* - till next year, at least..

    That's the problem.

    If my copy of Office 2003 had been sold as a subscription only for $100 a year, I would have paid $1000 so far. And along the way I would probably been forced to "upgrade" to the completely unusable newer versions.

  • by Gonoff ( 88518 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:09PM (#43057611)

    For tech writers out there, everything was invented either by Apple or Google.

    As a tech user, I know that nearly nothing technical was invented by Apple. (Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything but I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt,)

    They have improved some things a lot but their top activity is marketing. They have no doubts 'invented' some business models but their most active practice is to sell above average devices at premium prices and some car manufacturers have been doing that for decades,

  • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:12PM (#43057617)

    It's (relatively) cheap for someone who needs 5 Office Pro licenses. but no one needs an Office Pro license... and certainly not 5 of them!

    So for normal people, it means the price of Office went through the roof. Most people I know (who didn't pirate) still use Office Home 2007, which they bought at an average price of 100$ (I even bought one copy for my mother at 50$ during a boxing day sale). So the old Office price was less than 17$/year. And even at 17$/year, there are people who think it was too expensive and chose to pirate. And now you want them to pay 6 times more? And you call that cheap?

    When the cost of a single software cost as much as the whole computer, it's not cheap. It's stupidly expensive.

    Hello LibreOffice.

  • Horse Shit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:13PM (#43057623)

    Nothing says flounder like a rapid development schedule for a mature product.

    Who says there's anything left for Microsoft to do? What if the Office Suite is so near perfect that is impossible to innovate?

    And why should anyone in their right (or left) mind accept the argument that customers who don't see sufficient value in upgrading are responsible for holding the Gods of Programming from there annointed purpose of innovation?

    This smells like shear desparation driving Microsoft to tactics designed to keep their effort relevant to the news cycle, not a strategy that will spur the development of any kind of thoughtful or meaningful new functionality one might consider innovative. Otherwise we'd be hearing about the improvements and their value to customers.

    This is pathetic, both as snooze story and as a business strategy.

  • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:14PM (#43057629)

    There is nothing wrong with Office 2003. It's a utility. There are few features in the newer versions that make doing your job faster, more accurate, or cheaper.

    Not where I am contracting as it is a big headache!

    One of the VPs read something about the cloud and Office 365 and decided to layoff the Exchange support team and outsource it to Microsoft with outlook.com. Problem is about 500+ users in 4 continents still used Outlook 2003 when the switch went thru.

    No email or calandar functions for these users! They need a browser and about 200 called the India help desk at the same time for instructions. +5 hour wait time.

    FYI outlook 2003 does not support mapi. Very bad things happened and I am working overtime trying to fix it with angry hostile users with +120 tickets a week as it is with only 2 other guys trying to manage the minimalist insourced I.T.

    Staying behind may look cheap and reasonable but tickets and support are skyrocketing and management is all sooo clueless on why is support costs and tickets going up! This software worked fine for 10 years! The social media integration, clouds, and soon HTML 5 versions of SAP, Kronos, Google Docs, Salesforce.com are going to hit those stuck on IE 7 next.

    So it is a hassle so lets plug our ears and whine I CANT HEAR YOU. Shit will hit the fine later but in a surge like at this company that decided to go cheap with the accounting department running through 3 different outsources to do I.T. Office 2003 is surely not a utility when we went to the cloud.

    Sadly, you have completely missed the point. Switching to Office 365 and "the cloud" got you nothing but trouble. And it's not the fault of your "outdated" Office 2003. Once again, someone who is in a position of power, and who doesn't belong there due to their total clulessness, made a gigantic bonehead decision.

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:17PM (#43057649)

    Look, office suites are way better than my first essay-writer -- wordstar in ~1986 -- which itself was wonderful. And modern office suites are better than my favourite essay-writer -- wordperfect 5 something I think -- with keyboard function key overlay and alt menu drop downs.

    But is there really a difference between office in 2013, and office in 2002? It's been ten years of crazy awesome features that just don't matter.

    Sure I use spreadsheets every day. But not for anything that I didn't do in lotus 123. And sure I use write/word every day. Again, not for anything more than I did with wordperfect.

    I really couldn't care less any more. I'm not using them to fly to the moon.

  • by luke923 ( 778953 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:33PM (#43057775) Journal

    They're not doing it wrong -- they're doing it because they can! If MSFT didn't want to worry about an end user (who might happen to be a Fortune 500 client buying an unlimited site license) writing an Excel macro or a program in VBA, these features should have never been included with Office in the first place. So, MSFT will have to support these features or provide compelling enough reasons for their customer base (via more compelling reasons) to migrate to a new version and move their real "programming" outside of Office.

    BTW, if you want to know why alot of corporate clients have codebase inside of Office applications, read my sig.

  • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:39PM (#43057829)

    > Are people still crying about this? The rest of us spent a few days finding the stuff
    > we use, which is not hard since now it's categorized, and went on with our lives

    No we didn't - we stayed with the version we were already using, and just missed out on the other new features like.. uh..you know, the new stuff that was really worth the effort and expense of upgrading.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:42PM (#43057847) Homepage

    Does Excel really need another mathematical function that only a person with a PhD in some obscure branch of mathematics has heard of?

    Seems like what they mostly add to Excel are new visualizations, i.e. new ways to display data, rather than to calculate it. They're also adding things like new PowerPoint visual effects, tools to make it easier to edit graphics from right within PowerPoint and Word, etc. None of it is essential, but it's easy to see how someone who uses the product a lot could think they're pretty cool additions. I suspect these are the kinds of things Microsoft will be pushing with their Office updates, more so than anything really significant.

    The cynic in me says that they will keep changing the file format in order to keep forcing people to upgrade and the subscription service is just to smooth out revenues instead of having very large sales every couple of years.

    I have no reason to suspect the file formats will change in any way that breaks backward compatibility. But I'd say you're right on the money with the rest of your sentiment, no cynicism required. Note that the infrastructure for these supposed 90-day updates (Microsoft hasn't said it will actually do them every 90 days) is only included in the Office 365 version of the suite. It has a different installation method and its own software update feature. Microsoft has already said that it will be releasing Office 365-only software updates using this mechanism. What it's doing now is trying to plant the idea in customers' minds that if they don't get onto the subscription model they will be "missing out" -- or worse, that they won't get bug fixes and security updates as fast as subscription customers. The latter is probably not actually true, but you won't catch Microsoft's sales staff denying it.

  • by Simply Curious ( 1002051 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:42PM (#43057849)
    Still disliking screen real estate being used by uselessly large, annoyingly nested menus that change on the fly? Yup. I can use either. That doesn't mean that both are equally well-designed.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:57PM (#43057945) Homepage

    Are you kidding. It's the A users that are the ones that can actually tolerate this absurdly fast release cycle. They can tolerate it because they don't really do anything. So there is far less chance that any reversion will bugger them.

    The B users are going to be f*cked up by this nonsense because they are trying to use everything and have all sorts of inter-dependencies. Reversions caused by too many versions too quickly will CLOBBER these "bread and butter" end users.

    Profitable "Enterprise" users are the ones that like to cling to old versions because the cost of an outtage is too high.

  • by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @09:57PM (#43057949) Homepage Journal

    " It is frustrating to see so many of them still on IE 7, XP, and Office 2003, which hurts Windows and Office sales and holds back Microsoft profits."

    See if that makes more sense...


  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @10:05PM (#43057989)
    It isn't just kludges...

    That guy writing excel macros isn't a professional programmer. He's a professional bean counter or mid-level manager. Somewhere along the way he picked up some simple VBA skills that were needed to get the job done.

    Thats it. Thats all there really is to it. Converting the code to C/C++/Python/whatever isnt going to help, because he simply does not know those languages and neither will the guy that replaces him.
  • by Radical Moderate ( 563286 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @10:14PM (#43058043)
    ....This Is a Phenomenally Stupid Idea chorus. You want to make Enterprise happy?
    1. Release a new version no less every two years, three years even better
    2. Backwards compatibility? Yes please, unless there's a good reason otherwise
    3. Don't juggle all the menus just to give a few hundred programmers busy work
    4. Don't randomly change keyboard shortcuts just for the hell of it. Sure maybe the old ones made no sense. Neither will the new ones, and millions of us have already memorized the old ones.

    Sure, we got spoiled by XP's ridiculous longevity, and you still managed to bork Vista. Please, don't saddle yourself and us with arbitrary release targets.
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @10:32PM (#43058145)
    In word processing, spreadsheet, database, email, etc? There have been very few features since Office 97 I even use. Newer templates and fonts, maybe. The only office product that can seriously expand would be Visio. You can always use more shapes. What else would they add? Rearrange the commands for the 40th time? Add lol to spellcheck? One thing the could reintroduce: scanner support.
  • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:25AM (#43058657)

    All that stuff was categorized before the ribbon bar existed. There were these things called drop-down menus across the top of the screen. Each one had a title and things under it were related to that title.

    The ribbon bar basically forces one of those drop down menus to always be displayed and the user can switch which one is displayed and adds icons that make so little sense that they still require text labels.

    Graphically it may be pretty, but it is not an improvement and it some ways it is worse.

  • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rseuhs ( 322520 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @05:39AM (#43059817)
    If your employer supports Microsoft's Home Use Program, Office 2013 Pro is a $10 download.

    Wow, so you think that "normal users" only work for companies that "support Microsoft's Home Use Program"?

    Let me introduce you to the real world:

    • - More than half of all people don't have an "employer" (self-employed, unemployed, retired, students, etc.)
    • - Most people that have an employer don't use a computer (most jobs are still non-office jobs, so even if 100% of office jobs use MS Office: No office, no MS Office)
    • - Most people in office-jobs don't have any homework where "Home Use" would make sense.
    • - Even when a company depends on homework from employees, it may not need the latest/greatest version and just standardize on Office 2003 which is good enough and not pay for "Microsoft's Home Use Program".
    • - And even when the "Microsoft's Home Use Program" would make perfect sense, there is no guarantee that the company agrees. In fact I would guess that even in the perfect use case, where everything is exactly as Microsoft-marketing thinks it is, most companies rather not join the program.

    We are talking about a tiny minority here, not "normal people".

  • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dingen ( 958134 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @08:38AM (#43060461)

    I think the real question is: does Office really require any form of serious development at all? One of the main reasons so many users have stayed behind and stuck with old versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint is because the features introduced in later versions were increasingly trivial. People stick with Office 2003 not because they can't afford newer versions, but because the old version basically is just fine. So if 10 years of development couldn't really add something useful enough for people to upgrade, why continue development at all?

  • by devent ( 1627873 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @10:07AM (#43060889) Homepage

    What are you expect of "innovation" in a word processor?
    Word processors were pretty much feature complete 20 years ego.
    Just look at Latex, the basic functions were finalized in 1978.

    The only "innovation" is new and unnecessary changes in the user interface and new document formats.
    With Odf we should have now an international format for documents and Pdf for exchange of finished documents.

    Except the new document formats like Odf and OOXML, why should anyone buy in a 90 days release cycle of a Word Processor?

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351