Users hungry for more flexible software licenses are warming to the nascent market for renting applications.
That market leapt forward last week when Microsoft and several application service providers made Office 2000 available online.
Microsoft’s offering will be based on Windows terminal servers running Office 2000 either at application service providers or on its bCentral portal for small businesses. Core applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, FrontPage and Outlook will be available.
Also last week, Corel in Ottawa announced that it will make WordPerfect available online through FutureLink in San Francisco. And Sun Microsystems said that the launch of its office application rental site, StarPortal, will be delayed into next year.
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Microsoft received most of the attention from observers. “When the world’s largest software company announces that the world’s leading personal productivity suite is available through the world’s most significant access method, a major inflection point has occurred,’’ wrote analysts at Zona Research. “We believe the demand for Office Online will be strong.”
Sterling Capital in Baltimore, an investment company that owns several companies with a total of 6,000 employees, is experimenting with Office 2000 online at one of its holdings, Sterling Learning Systems, said CIO Steven Fragapane. Eight Atlanta and three Boston franchises will rent all their information technology equipment from TeleComputing Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Fragapane said renting is ideal because Sterling intends to sell the locations back to the franchisor, which would replace the franchise systems anyway. “I didn’t want to have staff to fire,” Fragapane said.
Fragapane said he’s optimistic but can’t predict that Sterling would begin using application service providers for other business units, such as ones with inventory or transactions. The complexity and scale of those applications might be too great, he said.
Some users just want flexibility on price and don’t care to outsource their IT.
John Bullock, director of IT at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles, said he likes the idea of monthly licensing for Microsoft Office but would prefer to run it locally.
(Senior editor Dominique Deckmyn contributed to this story.)