Kurt DelBene, president of Microsoft’s Business division, talked about the pending acquisition of Skype on Tuesday during the launch of Office 365, Microsoft’s new cloud service for email, collaboration, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and unified communication.
“Office 365 will be the lead offering along with the client that should drive parity” with Skype, DelBene said. “Client” refers to the desktop version of Office software for the PC.
Microsoft is still waiting for the green light from antitrust regulators around the world. U.S. regulators allowed the merger to move forward last week.
DelBene was part of the acquisition talks with Skype. His division makes Lync, unified communication software that allows people to make phone calls, instant message and hold Web video conference calls on the computer. Lync is part of the Office 365 service.
“The ability to connect Lync users with Skype users is a huge opportunity for us,” DelBene said. He also hinted that Microsoft plans to take presence, the status update in Lync (and Skype) that shows whether people are in a meeting or free based on their Outlook calendar, in the rest of Office.
“We’ve been investing in Office in taking presence and integrating it in Office. Any place I’m working in a document with somebody I should be able to see” whether that person is available, DelBene said.
DelBene said Microsoft is not saying when Skype features will be available in Office 365.
Next version of Office coming at end of 2012
DelBene also indicated that businesses should expect the next version of Office to start selling at the end of 2012.
“We’re typically in a 2 1/2 year cycle,” DelBene said Tuesday. Office 2010 started selling in June 2010, so that would make the next version of Office ready around December 2012.
The new cloud service Office 365 will get quarterly software updates. Unlike most online banking websites, Office 365 will not go down for hours at a time for the software upgrade. “That’s maddening,” DelBene said.
There were three years between Office 2007 and Office 2010. It was longer than usual, he said, because of 60,000 pages of documentation Microsoft had to submit to the European Commission related to an antitrust consent decree. They set up a SharePoint site to get the documents to Europe.
He said the line is blurring between Web apps and desktop applications. “We don’t feel restricted by what defines browser versus desktop versions,” DelBene said. “What I do think will happen is the client and browser applications will change over time,” he said. “You won’t t know whether you’re in a rich client or a Web app.”
DelBene said the future of Office on a PC will be more like a smartphone experience, where most people use apps instead of Web browsing, but they don’t really care about the difference.
(Photo of Kurt DelBene: The Seattle Times)