New data visualization apps for Excel 2013 could help Microsoft hang on to customers looking for better data visualization tools.
Microsoft is wise to offer an Android version of SkyDrive
Employees are increasingly turning to public file-sharing services instead of relying on file servers or other internal solutions.
Consumer services like Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Google Drive are easy to set up and use, offer access from any mobile device with an Internet connection regardless of location, and don't require any IT involvement or approval. Enterprises (often rightly) fret about corporate data leaking out through such services, but without some kind of rights management technology or the threat of serious penalty, it's hard to stop employees from using them.
Microsoft's entrant in the race, SkyDrive, is taking a much bigger role in Microsoft's strategy as it rolls out Windows 8. There's a SkyDrive app built into Windows 8, and users can save files to SkyDrive as if it's just another local drive. If you use Windows 8, you'll have every inclination to use SkyDrive as well.
This morning, Microsoft announced a big overhaul to the SkyDrive service to bring it more in line with the design of modern Windows 8 apps (don't call them Metro!) and the recently unveiled Outlook.com (don't call it Hotmail!). The most visible highlight of the redesign is a new "tile-based" layout, which offers big previews of files in the service and lets you drag them around. There are also a bunch of much-needed feature improvements, like instant search.
But perhaps the most interesting addition is a new SkyDrive app for Android phones, which will roll out in coming weeks.
Microsoft hasn't offered many details yet -- for instance, it's not clear which versions of Android it will run on, or if it will have any design provisions for running on Android tablets.UPDATE: Microsoft says it will run on Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" and later devices that can connect to the Google Play store. That means it will run on about 75% of the Google-sanctioned Android devices currently in the market, according to June 2012 statistics from Google. (That excludes devices like the Amazon Kindle fire, which use a forked version of Android.)
Microsoft already has a SkyDrive app for iOS, but adding Android to the list re-emphasizes how Microsoft is changing its strategy to respond to consumerization and the rise of non-Windows devices in the workplace.
Microsoft knows that online services are only competitive if they have a strong mobile story, which means they have to support the platforms people actually use. With Windows Phone stuck around 2% market share, that means embracing iOS and Android.
Still, it's pretty startling to see Microsoft, which made its business selling platforms, embracing platforms from its arch rivals in order to make one of its online services more useful. Perhaps Microsoft really is becoming a cloud-first company -- more like Google.
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Brandon Porco, the chief technologist for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, says that IT will have to try lots of different things and move quickly to keep abreast of evolving employee needs. "Google has it very well-patterned: Launch and iterate."
Although Apple is often accused of not being an enterprise company, it's only in the last few years that Apple has abandoned its enterprise-oriented products. The real story may be that Apple's discovered that making enterprise-focused efforts simply don't deliver a huge return on investment.
Majority of Windows 8 PC owners launch less than one app a day