Over TEN years ago, 1999 to be exact, I sent a proposal to Microsoft which was, essentially, the forerunner to what today we call “cloud computing”.

As an account rep for Northern Computer, dealing mainly with small to medium sized businesses, I saw that many of these companies could not afford the heavy hardware and software costs of having their own in-house IT department, yet the needed the programs, connectivity, access to their data, and critical backups. At the time I was working with David Fowler, who was then GM at SILK Internet. He helped me tremendously by supporting a plan where SILK would fund the hardware costs of the shared servers and high-speed connectivity, in exchange for a percentage of the revenue generated from companies who subscribed to our service. This meant that everyone, from a small company to the road-warrior electrician could have secure access to their data, anywhere, anytime and on any device, such as a “smart” phone. The key was getting Microsoft to allow pay-per-use of their software, such as Office. SILK agreed to buy a licensed version for every server, just like a company would, but then users would share the cost by paying to access the program. Someone such as an electrician who needed to do a quote would only need to pay a few dollars for the one-time use, and not the hundreds of dollars to buy a suite of programs he did not need to own.

I somehow managed to get all the way up to a Senior Manager of Licensing who told me that Microsoft would NEVER EVER consider pay-per-use of their software. He literally laughed at me on the phone and the entire project died right then and there.

My how things change! This announcement from Microsoft today –

Available in select Microsoft Office 365 service plans, Office Professional Plus delivers the productivity of Office as a flexible, pay-as-you-go service. It’s a complete, enterprise-class Office experience that ensures you’ll always have the latest versions of all Office desktop applications. And with Office Web Apps, you can access your documents, email, and calendars from virtually any device*.  

If they had just listened over ten years ago they would be a lot farther ahead today and I would be a rich man. Life ain’t fair!