Cape Town - Microsoft's approach to cloud technology is offer consumers choice in the way they choose to use the company's software.
"It's clear that our strategy is to lead with the cloud, but at the same time we still very much support an approach which says 'Adopt the cloud on your terms'. So we consider it to be a competitive differentiator that we actually offer customers choice," Uriel Rootshtain, head of the Office business at Microsoft South Africa, told News24.
Office has had the position of being the standard desktop document application for home and business users since 1989, and the company is cautious about radically changing the offering.
"We provide customers with a choice on whether or not they want to consume our technology on premise or whether they want to consume it in the public cloud or implement a hybrid model which gives them an opportunity to do a combination of both," said Rootshtain.
The latest iteration, Microsoft Office 365, has been available in SA for 10 months and the company is happy with the adoption so far.
"The response so far has been really good when you have a look at what we segment as our small business segment, the number of seeds that we've sold to date has also been very positive," Rootshtain said.
Microsoft is satisfied with the business adoption of Office 365 so far, and this suggests that the subscription model may have found a footing in SA.
"If we have a look at how many users have already deployed and are up and running and in South Africa, we're sitting at around the 18 000 mark," Rootshtain revealed about the software.
One of the selling points of Office 365 is the ability for the software to save files in the cloud so they are accessible on any device, including phones and tablets.
In a News24 test, the functionality performed to expectations travelling from Cape Town to Dubai, and then on to Istanbul. As soon as the Samsung tablet was connected to a Wi-Fi network, documents save on SkyDrive were instantly accessible.
Sharing documents with users back in SA was also easy and changes were updated automatically.
The new methodology mirrors Microsoft's change from a software vendor to a services vendor and many people will resist the change, Rootshtain conceded.
"It's a little bit difficult to compare because it's a slightly different proposition: When you're talking about Office 2007 and Office 2010, you might be talking about just a desktop application, as opposed to Office 365 which gives you the desktop applications as well as the online services," Rootshtain argued.
"You're always going to have a mix in the market, but our challenge; our objective is to demonstrate sufficient value in the newer capability in order for them to be enticed into upgrading now rather than later," he added.
Rootshtain said that Microsoft's latest Office would have frequent updates to ensure security and functionality.
"When you adopt Office 365, there will be more frequent updates to the features and the capabilities and the reason we came up with a whole new brand name, actually calling it Office 365 not something specific to a year, is now you are always going to get access to the latest and greatest."
Users of older Office applications can rest assured that Microsoft will not be abandoning the non-subscription model, Rootshtain insisted.
"For the foreseeable future, we are going to support on premise non-subscription versions for customers that are not yet ready to move."