Nick Carr breaks down the evolution of Office suites

Nick Carr breaks down the evolution of Office suites

Summary: Nick Carr weighs in on the definitional debates about Office 2.0, or the post Microsoft Office era that is emerging, and offers his view of the evolution of office software:Office 1.

TOPICS: Microsoft

Nick Carr weighs in on the definitional debates about Office 2.0, or the post Microsoft Office era that is emerging, and offers his view of the evolution of office software:

Office 1.0 (1980s): a set of discrete and often incompatible applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentation creation, and simple database management. Archetype: Lotus 1-2-3.

Office 2.0 (1990 - present): integrated suites of PPAs [personal productivity applicaitons], with expanded, if still limited, collaboration capabilities. Archetype: Microsoft Office.

Office 3.0 (present - early 2010s): hybrid desktop/web suites incorporating internet-based tools and interfaces to facilitate collaboration and web publishing.

Office 4.0 (c. early 2010s): fully web-based suites.

Nick also doesn't think that corporate users of Microsoft Office will stage a revolt, demanding a quick transition to Web-only applications.

Whatever the flaws of Microsoft Office, most end users are comfortable with it - and they have little motivation to overturn the apple cart. What is absolutely unacceptable to them is to take a step backward in functionality - which is exactly what would be required to make the leap to web PPAs today. Web apps not only disappear when you lose an internet connection, they are also less responsive for many common tasks, don't handle existing Office files very well, have deficiencies in printing (never underestimate the importance of hard copy in business), and have fewer features (Microsoft Office of course has way too many, but - here's the rub - different people value different ones). Moreover, many of the current web apps are standalone apps and thus represent an unwelcome retreat to the fragmented world of Office 1.0. Finally, the apps are immature and may change dramatically or even disappear tomorrow - not a strong selling point for the corporate market.

I agree with Nick on this point, although for smaller businesses and departments a collection of loosely coupled, lighter weight Web applications that perform the proper reading and writing of document formats can do the job, and displace parts or all of the Microsoft productivity software stack. Microsoft is not clueless, and is building a bridge between the old Office and the new Office. "Microsoft is taking a very pragmatic approach, a seamless, blended client-server-services approach...where services complement and extend Windows and Office applications to the Internet," Microsoft Chief Architect Ray Ozzie said. The bigger issues for Microsoft, as Nick and many others have pointed out, is how the company transitions its business model as more companies move to software as a service.

Google's attempts to create an Office and companies like Zoho will nip at Microsoft's heels, but the Redmondians have the clear advantage in the big corporate sector, especially if the company can execute on transitioning from 2.0 to 4.0, according to Nick's breakdown.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • Don't under estimate Google either. They for sure have a team working on

    the offline problem as we speak. They need to build a mini web server into Firefox to cash online applications for offline use, and automatically re-sync files on re-connect.

    They are also surely working on a Google Office appliance for companies that want it all inside the company firewall.

    And, of course they are adding features every month or so.
  • Also, do not under estimate the benifits of no-install, no administration

    of software with automatic backups. Also do not forget Googles power of unlimited CPU and disk space and instant natural search ability.

    Small business owners will be telling their grandsons about the days when they had to pay somebody to install, upgrade, administer, and backup software. They will have the horror stories about viruses and lost data and huge bills for periodically re-installing Windows and all the applications.

    Google will buy Intuit and integrate Quick Books into the Google cloud. Small business owners will eventually only need a computer with a browser and an internet connection. Heck, I can imagine the day when the cash register is a web application that directly populates the Quick Books database.
  • You can't underestimate Donnieboy

    Do you ever read these things Donnie?

    Maybe your're just a spambot.

    The problems of mickey mouse office apps have been adequately covered in the blog. But the main reason business will not take them up (well perhaps there will be some - against stupidity the gods contend in vain) is simple. Reliability, security and features.

    The features have been covered - they don't have any compared to the Office everyone is already using and they have to inevitably be mickey mouse, based on that joke of a platform - a browser.

    But Reliability - that's the real problem. Do I really want to come in to work and find that all my urgent business today is toast because of my ISP, net traffic, server load or because the vendor is dealing with its high profile customer problems and I don't even appear on their radar screen?

    Do you pay games Donnie? Probably not since you seem to detest Windows. I've mentioned it before, but there are already examples of Web based businesses (that use desktop apps) that have large amounts of subscribers demanding a quick response, always on connection. World of Warcraft is a good example. Seven million subscribers at $15 per month - now that's a nice cash flow.

    Even with their professional management, best ISPs and hardware (and yes I bet some of the servers are even running *nix) they still have lags, crashers and servers going down. Their customer support department must match the population of some small countries, but they still can't provide an always on reliable environment. I'm not complaining, I think they do a great job, but then I'm aware of the problems of doing what they are doing - Donnie you don't appear to be.

    Until we can provide a highly reliable, always on environment and security problems are solved, intelligent people are not going to put all their eggs in someone else's basket.
    • If you were woried about reliability or security, you will be using web

      applications. A non-technical small business owner installing, maintaining, and backing up his own apps would never be able to match the reliability or security of on-line apps. Yes, the net needs to get more reliable, but sooner or later it will be more reliable than electricity since you will easily be able to afford a backup provider.

      Small businesses will not have any reason to put all of their eggs in the Microsoft basket for much longer. They will get better functionality without all the headaches.
      • Ridiculous

        The Internet / WWW doesn't come with an SLA. What company would use a server / LAN that kept dropping out, slowing down? That is what the Internet brings - uncertainty. With a server / LAN, if it goes down it can be repaired in-house (normally quickly if the IT dept. is worth its salt), you can't do that with the Internet. You rely on your ISP to fix the problem. ISP's are not always the fastest to fix problems, and if you are #137 on the list, what chance do you have of a fast diagnosis / fix???

        Sorry, but I'll stick to what I can fix, rather than rely on someone else to make sure my business runs effectively.
        • And what is the SLA you have with you electricity provider????

          You lose electricity, you are down too, and alternate providers are not available.

          And, small businesses do NOT have anybody to fix servers that go down, or for that matter the money to pay people to maintain it properly and fix it when it goes down.

          Yes, tech nerds will stick with what THEY can fix. Small businesses will stick with what the do NOT have to fix.
      • I agree

        and google's business plan is built around this. They are read to wait out until the necessary increases in bandwidth come to make net apps a viable option. In fact, in a lot of cases, net apps could become viable if Google and the like take a lesson from Microsoft, and incorporate a number of features that help a user recover from failure, like autosave for example. I don't know how many times I've worked on Joomla or some other online app, had a crash, and lost what I was working on. I'd be perfectly happy working online if that kind of stuff and offline caching would be incorproated in an app.
        Paul Misner
    • Web-native business apps

      I have used NetSuite for 5 years. It doesn't lose data. Data loss would depend on the engine. NetSuite's Oracle stack is solid and secure. I have had more downtime and data loss on client server - including high-end enterprise packages.

      Bandwidth could still improve, but hyper-linked nacigation is awesome and can make up quickly for the occasional slow response. Salesforce and some of the others must work the same.

      SaaS is the future.
  • "... complement and extend..."

    ... is not the same as "replace".

    You observed:
    Microsoft is not clueless, and is building a bridge between the old Office and the new Office.

    Then you quoted Mr. Ozzie:
    "Microsoft is taking a very pragmatic approach, a seamless, blended client-server-services approach?where services complement and extend Windows and Office applications to the Internet," Microsoft Chief Architect Ray Ozzie said.

    [So the web can make Office more useful, even though Office is not on the web.]

    You continued:

    The bigger issue for Microsoft, as Nick and many others have pointed out, is how the company transitions its business model as more companies move to software as a service.


    Perhaps Microsoft provides some of the services that augment Office (complement and extend it) at a small, appropriate fee?

    And perhaps eventually when the many problems of internet use are resolved, a significant number of companies access their copies of Office through the web.
    The billing becomes more complicated than Buy the number of copies needed, but the problems are familiar.

    Why not keep selling what people want to buy, and use new distribution channels as... new distribution channels?
    Anton Philidor
  • uncertain future!

    Though PPA's sound grt as a future for todays installable app's. Its adaptiveness depends on the size of the company. For a large and established company its just going to be a expensive to migrate on to the web based architecture fo their apps and also to make their existing content be available ont he web; its just takes too much time and money to do it. Their are another factors which mgiht make people think twice if not deter them from jumping into it, network infrastructure and security. If everyone is going onto the web to do their daily work.......the cost of maintaining such a infrastructure itself will just be huge.
  • Time will tell

    Regardless of your POV on office software, time will be the factor that confirms whether or not Web 2.0-type apps will work for most people. My gut tells me that MS Office is not dead, but it also tells me that most people don't need much more than MS Office 2000 features.

    Google will impact MS Office, but maybe not the way most people think it will. I see Google providing more on an alternative to MS Works than MS Office, but that doesn't mean it can't take some marketshare from MS Office. The problem MS has is that Google's offerings are already good, but they will only get better, and they will be far cheaper than anything MS can respond with.
  • It won't be Outside the firewall

    Working in a HIPPA regulated environment, I know that we would never allow our apps or our data to reside outside the bounds of our firewall. But yes the apps will move off the desktop, as we move more and more of our data into Sharepoint it only makes sense that we will use an app eventually office integrated into Sharepoint to modify that data. Though I think that point is still 10 years or more off, as the older staff retires and younger more tech savy staff takes their place. For myself I won't be moving my home apps off my desktop anytime soon, unless its to my home server running across a gig switch.
    • I don't necessarily agree.

      HIPAA requires security for data, and many hospitals and doctor's offices are doing HIPAA related activities through the use of third party outsourcing, be it with a medical insurance provider or an outsourced medical research service. A service provider can standardize policies to support compliance and take advantage of economies of scale to hire security experts better than any Doctor's office could afford.
      When the older staff retires, it's a good chance that younger staff won't be rehired, and this stuff will move all to the web. At my home, we've swapped Office for OpenOffice. It does everything my wife and kids need, and I've got MS Office from my employer on my laptop. I'd move to web apps in a second at any stationary computer.
      Paul Misner