Office 2013: Microsoft’s Venture from the Clouds

By Yonatan Gordon

In the previous article, we discussed the idea behind Windows Azure as it relates to market branding and identity. This week we will speak about the new Microsoft Office 2013 and the concept of carrying out specific acts of volition.

A Day in the Clouds

In order to conceptualize the advancements of this new version, lets look at Office 2013 as a program that descends from the clouds. Whereas previous installments were seen as stand-alone desktop applications, in this new release, Microsoft is encouraging users to blend their Office and Azure Cloud experiences together into what they call the Office 365 domain.

In the previous article, we mentioned the swiftness needed to actualize specific tasks or activities. Now we will add another dimension to that discussion. To exert oneself with alacrity (as with initiating a campaign to brand oneself in the marketplace) takes a willingness to leave the cloud. While study can either be pleasurable (like watching a movie) or actionable (like an application or specific “executable” program), the ideal state is the latter. The task-oriented person will train himself to take his storehouse of knowledge and turn it into opportunities for specific action-oriented activities.

We can relate our topic to the debate over which is more essential: Torah study or Mitzvah observance. Those who favor Torah study do so because it is endless. Torah study remains a task that, “is not for you to complete” because it is infinitely vast. A task that cannot be completed in a lifetime. As with innovation, a person could spend his whole life innovating or inventing that which he has learned. The person who leaves the realm of thought also has the awareness that, “God’s Torah is whole; it revives the soul.” While we can never fathom the depth or complete studying the Torah, Mitzvah observance allows us to take our insights and perform specific tasks.

The challenge to perceive our actions as Mitzvahs can also be framed a lesson in launching applications from amidst the endless sea of Torah study. To go from the Azure Cloud to the Surface or Desktop of reality.

With regard to the term we mentioned in the previous article–Patient Alacrity–the patience is one’s willingness to wade through the endless waters of Torah study; whereas having alacrity is to exert oneself in Mitzvah observance.


Instead of Patient Alacrity, Microsoft calls it SkyDrive, but both terms relate very closely to one another. Whereas the SkyDrive is where Microsoft encourages people to save their files in the Azure Cloud–to allow content to be easily available on various platforms (e.g. Tablets, PC, Phone)–the concept of Patient Alacrity is rooted in that instance when Torah study is first made known to the world in pristine form.

Our desire to sync and stay connected with files in the cloud can be seen as our desire that the Torah should “sync” or “jive” with the world. Both professors of Talmud and communal rabbis study Torah. But if we had to choose between the two, presumably we would choose the latter because the application of the teachings is generally more apparent. The communal rabbi is often prompted to apply his studies for the benefit of his congregants. So too, if we feel a disconnect between ideas and their applications, we are pained much like an artist who sees himself as not understand by his own generation.

Sweetened Applications

Although Microsoft likely intended that their “365” Office domain represent the days of the solar year, 365 is also a very important number in Jewish tradition as it is the number of prohibitive commandments. This numerical reference calls to notion an important aspect of Mitzvah observance: Although our world was built with loving-kindness, in some ways a higher way to build our world is by sweetening judgements with loving-kindness. To show how each of the 365 prohibitive Mitzvos is actually a higher manifestation of God’s loving-kindness and compassion to us.

If we were to model a computer platform after these concepts, we would develop those elements that most encourage that initial, first pristine application of an idea to the world. While the desire to stay within the cloud of ideas is free-flowing by nature, the outbound drive of applications is very specific and focused. In order to create the world we all yearn for, we need to take the perpetual innovation of the cloud and bring in into the rigid (read: judgement or severe) aspect of an Office world. The goal of a programmer is to “make it easy to communicate, share, and create” ideas from the cloud to the application–thereby showing how sweet ideas are best presented from within a prohibitive or rule-based program.

Although there are many such examples of this motivation in Office 2013 (e.g. Project Online, Roaming, Office on Demand), we will end with one telling example.

Web Apps: Online versions of Office programs such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

Similar to the general concept of a SkyDrive, Web Apps help develop the idea that your actions are always connected to the source. While we are always updating our documents to see if they jive with the storehouse of knowledge hosting it, eventually we will probably print it out, or simply share the document with others. The act of publishing or sharing our work then opens it up for feedback or real-world input. The progression from developing a document, to publishing or sharing it, is like the duality between “Patient Alacrity” mentioned above.

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