Home Microsoft to Government CIOs: Choice is Here

Microsoft to Government CIOs: Choice is Here

At the 8th annual U.S. Public Sector CIO summit in Redmond, Microsoft shared its progress in offering cloud software services to the attendees. The company has been making progress along multiple fronts, showing the power of focus and persistence.

Microsoft has been investing in its products to meet the security requirements that are popular in the government setting. The company also applies its software-plus-service pattern as the way to reach knowledge workers in highly secure settings that require high availability.

The event kicked off with presentations and press announcements from numerous Microsoft government and cloud teams. One area that is central to Microsoft’s message is that the company is committed to federal standards for security, including – deep breath – International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001, Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) 70 Type I and Type II, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Title 21 CFR Part 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2, and Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) compliance.

Folks in health care can take note that HIPAA is on the list, giving us a glimpse into the future that this service may eventually compliment Microsoft’s other health care solutions in the market. In the context of health care, it’s worth mentioning that in Microsoft’s roadmap two-factor authentication will be addressed in the next six months.

Microsoft posted an primer on YouTube on its software-plus-services government strategy. The key theme: choice.

Software-Plus-Services Translated Scenario: Running Excel Locally

Business Productivity Suite includes hosted Exchange, Sharepoint, and Office Collaboration tools. This solution doesn’t include the applications themselves online; instead the pieces that join the files together are in the collaboration workflow. For the starter price of $10 per user, per month, it seems very attractive in comparison with other offerings in the market. We used the

cost calculator

and found that was as you would expect, the price per user goes down as the volume increases.

Microsoft seems to be leveraging its strength in Exchange and Sharepoint to couple with local versions of Office Software to enter the market. There may be several reasons for this that shape this solution.

  • Protecting the dynasty of Office revenue

  • Making it easier to get started for existing license holders and users already familiar with their local version of Office

  • Online solutions not ready, or don’t meet the the usability requirements

  • Microsoft’s vision that some software runs best when local

We wondered how this compares with the capability of editing a Google Spreadsheet with Google Apps. As a user, running the entire application on the network is a bit of a double-sided sword today.

On one hand, browser based applications aren’t as feature rich as current desktop applications and are still maturing. Where this innovation happens is also unclear; HTML5, JavaScript, SilverLight and Flash all have roles to play.

On the other hand, when you have the document hosted online like in Google Docs, collaborating becomes a natural and expected part of the experience. The app can offer simple cues like always telling a person who else is editing the document at the same time.

Today, we are signing up for the trial service to give it a test, and will report back on our findings as we setup and put it through the paces.

Microsoft’s Commitment to Government: Is it Winner-Take-All?

Microsoft has benefited in the past by understanding how to leverage the network effect. For example, file formats and applications like Word became so dominant that it is assumed that all users use .doc, or use an application that talks to this file format. This, in effect, makes it very difficult to displace Word as an application.

The push into secure cloud services seems like a race to ubiquity. The vendor that wins “first” may end up being the default way to collaborate in government departments.

We can see how valuable it will be for the systems to overlay with existing technologies such as email, word processing, and data analysis. They will need to hit the same ubiquity so that all members of a team or project can share information freely and securely.

Microsoft is heavily invested in government services. You can keep up on the happenings by follow one of the handful of Microsoft government Twitter accounts the company has. We also found this Gartner interview with Ray Ozzie valuable in framing the cloud from Microsoft’s perspective.

Is Microsoft positioned to be the default delivery of cloud services to the Feds?

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