Microsoft Office 365 had a momentous birthday this week, turning five years old. It's easy to forget at this point, but under Steve Ballmer, Microsoft was lukewarm on the cloud. It was only when Satya Nadella took the reigns that the company began to take its cloud business much more seriously.
If for some reason you aren't familiar with Office 365, it has a double purpose. First and foremost it is the online version of Microsoft's desktop stalwart, Office. This includes business and consumer offerings.
It gives users access to cloud versions of business application staples like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook. In addition to this, it also encompases SharePoint online, Microsoft's content management and collaboration platform, which you can buy as a stand-alone service or as part of the Office 365 suite of services.
Unlike like Google's suite of apps, you can't get Microsoft's cloud office tools for free. You can try it for free for 30 days, but then you have to choose from among a myriad of pricing choices, the cheapest as far as I could tell being $6.99 per month for the personal edition.
Regardless of how you feel about that, Office 365 has certainly grown into an adorable five-year-old with 70 million business users and 22 million consumers, according numbers in this ZDNet article. Some reports have suggested it has surpassed Google's cloud office suite, but it's hard to get a solid view of the market because there is surprisingly little data about cloud office suite marketshare — and believe me I looked.
So many choices
What's more, it's difficult to make meaningful comparisons because it's hard to know if you are talking about Google Apps for Work, Google's cloud office suite for business, versus all of Office 365 or just a subset of business users, less the consumers — or if the numbers also include the free version of Google Drive and all of the apps associated with that. Apparently, even the usual suspects like Gartner and comScore are having trouble getting good data.
It's likely, however, that Microsoft has at least some sort of edge where business users are concerned since Office continues to be a business mainstay. As more employees move to the cloud, it's logical that they would move with Microsoft and stay with the known and the familiar Office tools they have been using these many years. Like so much of the cloud — I'm looking at you, Infrastructure as a Service — there's plenty of room for growth, but of course that remaining (and still expanding) market share is up for grabs from competitors too.
It's a good bet that over the next five years the cloud office suite from Redmond will continue to grow and mature and find new ways to delight (and frustrate) its parents like all five year olds. For now, the kindergartner is feeling its way and looking quite confident. Happy Birthday, kiddo.
Photo Credit: Jeremy King on Flicker. Used under CC by 2.0 license.