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Microsoft Office and O365

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I am pleased to advise that Microsoft O365 (Office 365) product range has now been officially released to the Malawi corporate market. O365 is the successor to all the Office versions you know and have used for probably most of your working life.

This range has been seamlessly integrated with the Microsoft cloud services offerings and my guess is that this will be one of the most widely used business cloud products globally in the next few years. Here is some background to Microsoft Office and its current evolution.

Did you know that more than 1.2 billion users use Microsoft Office daily? With the cheaper options such as Open Office available, why do users still go for the more expensive Microsoft flagship product of at least $200 and upwards.

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The biggest user attraction is that the learning curve of any new Office version is very shallow. I will talk more later about Office 2016, the latest version that was released on October 1, but suffice it to say that any user currently using Office, will be able to install and run the latest version with minimum delay.

Most of the familiar functionality is still available, and the enhancements included in this version are available whenever the user feels like it. Transition time to newer versions is minimal.

As we all know that Office applications are the applications of choice for most professionals, with Excel being the spreadsheet of choice of most finance workers, Outlook for almost everyone using emails, and Word for those creating documents. There are other applications included in the suite which are in wide use, and example being Publisher, used for the design of marketing templates, and PowerPoint for presentations.

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Did you also know that Office piracy rates in Malawi are estimated by Microsoft to be over 90 percent? I will talk more about this at the end of this column. Microsoft has now set out on a strategy to massively expand its Office client base. There are two successful prongs to this strategy. The first is making Office available for Apple and Android devices. Current figures show that more than 150 million copies of Office have been downloaded on these devices.

Secondly, Microsoft is now available to the general public and corporates alike as a subscription model. This simply means that, rather than buying the full product as it comes out; the user chooses to subscribe for a period of time for the usage of the latest version of Office. This period is renewed if required.

However, with regards to costs, I have roughly estimated that a subscription for at least three years (four or more for home users) will cost less than purchasing the latest version outright. This makes great sense in a number of ways, piracy is not an issue, the version received is always the latest and regularly updated, and it is bundled with Microsoft online services to give users the full online experience of Office. This has been possible by the increased universal access to the internet. And most importantly, it is cheap!

This product range is called Office 365, available in a wide range to cover personal, not for profit and commercial needs. Very simply, subscribing to this product allows user to load this version of Office onto up to 5 devices if required, ensures that users can access their mails in the cloud wherever they are and with any device they choose, from mobile phones to desktops, and ensure a full, secure backup of the users’ mails in the Microsoft cloud.

Imagine picking up any device, logging in and accessing all your mails, calendar events and contacts. You will never lose an email again, one of the biggest fears when a user requires their device to be repaired or replaced.

There is a lot more functionality available here, enabling users to carry out video conferencing and online meetings via Skype for business, for example, but this would require more space and time than this column allows. This will be expanded on at alter date.

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