Microsoft ships Office 2013 SP1 the old-fashioned way

Analyst calls out the company for poorly explaining what customers get in Office 365, what they get (or don't) in Office 2013, and what they pay for each

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At the root of Microsoft's problem was the complexity of what is still a hybrid ecosystem, with some components of the service-style Office 365 still hosted on-premises -- as Office is, no matter how it's obtained -- or when tools work on licensed copies but also do more with a subscription. "That's the conundrum, trying to compare on-premises with off," Miller said. "This really highlights the complexity of describing the hosted and on-premises products when licensed two different ways, from both a supportability and licensing perspective."

And that translates into a tougher time gauging the usefulness of a service pack for licensed products like Office 2013 SP1.

Other than Power Map, Microsoft called out only a few new features in SP1. Among them: a name change of SkyDrive Pro to OneDrive for Business to match the new brand that debuted in January and launched last week; compatibility fixes to better support Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11 (IE11); enhanced support for higher-resolution devices, including tablets and 2-in-1s; and new APIs (application programming interfaces) for developers building Office Apps, the add-ons that are being distributed and sold at the Office Store.

The continual influx of features or apps for Office 365, and the relative paucity of like features in SP1, has made some wonder whether licensing Office the old-fashioned way puts them at the back of the line and casts them as second-class customers.

There's some truth to that, said Miller. "It's relatively clear that Microsoft, while certainly not abandoning traditional licensing, can't update on-premises with the velocity we've just seen for Office 365 [in the last year]," he said. Some of that is resistance from companies that do license Office the traditional way; they're not ready or willing to change, Miller contended.

The emphasis on Office 365's primacy is part of the "cloud-first" strategy that Microsoft is pursuing, said Miller, whether referenced as "services" in former CEO Steve Ballmer's drive toward making the company a "devices and services" firm, or in the first-day phrase of "mobile-first, cloud-first," of new CEO Satya Nadella.

Although Office 2013 users will receive SP1 notifications over the next 30 days through Windows Update and WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), customers can immediately download the service pack manually using links found in a support document. The 32-bit version of Office 2013 SP1 tipped the digital scales at 644MB, while the 64-bit version was a 744MB download.

At the end of that 30-day stretch, Microsoft will begin pushing SP1 as an automatic update to users. The delay between initial availability and automatic updating through Windows Update is normal practice for Microsoft, one designed to give companies time to prepare for the update, or put in place mechanisms to block the update until they can test it on a subset of their systems.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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