Ng: Microsoft’s free offerings

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Thursday, April 3, 2014


MICROSOFT has had a new CEO for the last few weeks, Satya Nadella. He is only the third CEO in Microsoft’s almost 40-year history. Things are rapidly changing and there have been a host of changes and announcements since he took over.

First, Microsoft is starting to go “free.” It announced that Windows on the phone or on tablets that are less than nine inches in screen size can have Windows for free. It also announced that it was developing a future version called Windows for the Internet of Things – which essentially means various gadgets, and that too, will be free.

The second is that Microsoft also announced that Office for the iPhone and for Android devices were not only made available for these devices but made available for free. It also announced a version of Office for iPad but the more functional one will require an office 365 subscription in order to edit. So in the last few days, the leading applications being downloaded from both Android and Apple store were Microsoft’s Excel, Word and PowerPoint applications.

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Giving free versions in other platforms is a big change for Microsoft considering that over 80 percent of its sales and profits come from these two products. But it is something that the company needs to do in order to not only court the users, but also the app developers. Releasing them in various platforms means that a developer can write an app on a Windows platform or Office API and it will allow them to sell and run it across multiple platforms.

However, the third announcement is something that I liked even better. A decade ago, Microsoft introduced a new application called OneNote. It was a note-taking application where you can store your various notes, statistics, and things you want to clip or remember. As somebody who has loads of tidbits to remember, it was a great application for me and I immediately warmed to it.

However, OneNote was not supported well and was known as the poor stepchild of Microsoft Office. It was rarely promoted or updated. Worse, it worked only on Windows computers.

A few years ago, I started to use another notetaking software called Evernote. It could run on multiple computers and because it stored the information on the cloud, it had Mac, iPad and Android versions, it was easy to zip the information and access it on any device anywhere.

Moreover, it was free (at least if you don’t add over 60 megabytes per month).

It is good that Microsoft is finally taking note of the competition and announced that OneNote would be free for Windows and Macintosh users. It also promised to release on many other platforms. I like OneNote because there seems to be one thing it does very well – handwriting. So I can use my Windows tablet and take handwritten notes easily using a stylus. Anyway, all of these free releases do seem to augur well – Microsoft is waking up and is using free offerings to fight competition. It will be interesting to see how that works in the next few months. (www.twitter.com/wilsonng)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 04, 2014.

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