Monday, July 13, 2009

Office 2010 - Who Cares?

Well, Microsoft is supposed to launch a limited preview of their upgrade to Office - called Office 2010 - sometime today. I didn't pre-sign-up for an access code to check it out - because, quite frankly, I really don't care.

Curious, yes - caring - no.

I read an overview on TechCrunch and they menti0ned that Microsoft was going to come out with a FREE version of Office on the web - in direct competition with Google Docs.

Ummmmm... yeah.

The good news is that it's rumored to have the same crappy and confusing "Ribbon" user interface as the desktop version (!), and although it won't have as many features (of course) - it will still allow you to actually create... wait for it... TEXT DOCUMENTS IN THE "BROWSER"! Whoo hoo!

Oh, and they're also going to give away this spiffy new version of Excel that allows you to actually do simple spreadsheets - again - IN THE "BROWSER"! Wow!

Jeez. Are they kidding?

I mean I know that they hate Google and everything - and Google must have gone up their a** 100 miles when they announced the Chrome OS last week - but really. A free Office Suite? 4 years after Google did it? 4 years after Zoho and all the rest of the OTHER 1,000,000 players who have free word processing, image processing, spreadsheets and presentation software?

If anything, Microsoft's delay in giving away the goods has allowed all these other players to get people used to NOT using Microsoft's Office tools (in the browser). They have all made it easy to import and export their browser-based documents for consumption by Office or OpenOffice or PDF or whatever it is you use on your desktop.

They allow multiple authors to collaborate in near-realtime, support version control, and permission-based security. Oh yeah, and these "other" productivity tools run in any browser you might have lying around - NOT just in IE.

They also (for the most part) have open APIs - that allow developers to tie these applications into larger workflow applications - or to combine the data and create custom mashups. I'm sure that Microsoft will have some APIs as well - but it will be interesting to see whether they extend to the desktop version as well.

In some ways, it's cool that the 800 pound gorilla is getting into the free online business apps market. Maybe that competition will force Google and the other players to up the ante and create some truly innovative features (and enhance some of the stuff that's in there now).

I'm not sure what their business model for the free web versions is (other than the typical Microsoft FUD-factor)... because if you're not using Office now (or have an old version that meets your needs and you're using some other online tools as well) - what will make people jump to the online versions?

The other big question is - how long until someone creates a virus or worm that will infect the Active X components that will surely play a part? Will they run on other browsers? Will users of other browsers need to install anything? Will users even CARE?

Will YOU use the free Office tools when they finally ship (late next year)?
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