Will Office Web Apps overcome cloud biases?

Will Office Web Apps overcome cloud biases?

Summary: Yesterday, I asked if the Feds don't need Office, do we? In particular, though, I was really talking about how wedded people are to having an Office suite (possibly OpenOffice, but usually Office 2003 or 2007) actually sitting on their desktop.

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Yesterday, I asked if the Feds don't need Office, do we? In particular, though, I was really talking about how wedded people are to having an Office suite (possibly OpenOffice, but usually Office 2003 or 2007) actually sitting on their desktop.

Not too long after I'd posted this, though, I received a note from a contact at Microsoft, giving me access to the technical preview of Office 2010 Web Apps. I've been really looking forward to pitting the web suite head-to-head against Google Apps since GAPE (Google Apps for Education) is right up there with sliced bread in my book. While I'll do that this weekend, my very first impression was that Office Web Apps looked a lot like Office.

This isn't a selling point for me, but I have to wonder if it really will be for people accustomed to Office. Will all of the people unwilling to jump into the cloud because they've always had Office on their machines (even if they only use a fraction of its features) suddenly be willing to work in their browser and access their productivity suite that way?

Biases against cloud computing run deep, both among people who actually know what it is and among those who are just seeing services like Google Apps for the first time. In this case, the "But it isn't Office" argument runs deep, especially in the latter group.

I'll be curious to see if the familiar look and feel of Web Apps can overcome some of those biases. Check back for a lot more coverage of Microsoft's and Google's forays into this market.

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Will Office Web Apps overcome cloud biases?

    [i]since GAPE (Google Apps for Education) is right up there with sliced bread in my book.[/i]

    Of course it is, all your blogs ever do is profess your undying love for all things Google. We already know how your next blog is going to turn out. You are going to find every nitpick problem with Office Web Apps no matter how small because you have Microsoft and Microsoft is not Google.

    There is good reason for bias about the cloud. Its called privacy. There are many businesses who need to keep data private, for being PHI, being business proprietary, or just trade secrets. If you don't have policies in place at your school district (given your current set of skills I'm guessing probably not) then you will run into a lot of trouble. That is why people are not crazy about the cloud, it violates every privacy rights issue you can think of, and you being so hell bent on using Google who is the biggest violator of privacy rights are too blind to see it.
    Loverock Davidson
    • And violate every business confidentiality agreement as well

      Google = your information is our information to use as we choose.
      Patanjali
    • Not just privacy

      Internet access is not quite ubiquitous yet, and neither is the internet robust enough. And these applications eat up a good bit of bandwidth just at the time when providers are getting ready to close the all you can eat buffet in favor of by the ounce pricing.

      I can't wait to see how many businesses go bankrupt after suffering a long cloud application outage due to a construction crew cutting through a bundle of fiber optic cable, and the fiber optic cable supplier can't process the replacement order because their order processing and shipping applications are "cloud" based.
      medezark1
  • RE: Will Office Web Apps overcome cloud biases?

    I am a growing fan of Google Apps, but I would like to
    see some more features (better contact management, the
    ability to embed Google Docs in Gmail emails, etc).
    Here's to hoping that the competition with create better
    products, not more expensive ones.
    bsl275
  • Evaluation

    I'll be interested to read your evaluation.

    Google Apps is intended to run equally well on any platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) and, to a certain extent, be usable while offline. Hopefully, those are the same design goals for Office Web Apps.

    I don't know what your evaluation will entail, but it would be nice, if the tests included:

    1. different browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera).
    2. different OSes (Windows, Mac, Linux).
    3. at least one smartphone browser.
    4. offline (not sure if this is supported).

    Any technical details/problems to get it to work, in the various combinations, would also be useful.
    linuser
  • RE: Will Office Web Apps overcome cloud biases?

    Cloud biases will be overcome some day... when nobody
    cares about their privacy... when we are guaranteed 100%
    uptime of the Internet... when web apps work anywhere
    anytime on any platform... when pigs fly...
    levinson
    • You nailed that one...NT

      NT
      ajole
  • Bias or intelligent assessment?

    A few months ago our network was down at work for days. I was able to complete my work, which was extremely time-sensitive, because the software suite resides on my desktop computer. A while after that, Google had another of its hiccups, taking down its network for a while. Meanwhile, hacker attacks on the biggest companies in the world (and the U.S. government) periodically succeed, and all of their data is compromised. While you may love cloud computing, are you really comfortable labelling my assessment that cloud computing carries too many risks that I cannot control simply as "bias"?
    davidthomas3
  • RE: Will Office Web Apps overcome cloud biases?

    No. People innately want to be in control and if one is using a web app to to perform tasks their is a lot of uncertainty about security and ownership. Much like a management company taking over a business, who has ownership of the product and business.
    jatima
  • I just don't see the point.

    I just don't see the point of moving [i]everything[/i] to the cloud.

    For some things, sure, it makes sense, go ahead and do it.

    But don't do it just because it's the cool thing to do.

    Is there a real advantage to having an office suite online?

    And is there really anything inherently "wrong" with an offline app?

    . . . and, frankly, I'm not convinced we have the best programming model for web apps.

    Most of the apps I see are very feature poor. Very few really stack up to the feature sets of equivalent offline applications.

    From what I can tell, the fact that you need a dozen or so languages just to write a simple web 2.0 app makes it too difficult to make anything complex.

    I mean, seriously: HTML, JavaScript, PHP, CSS, SQL, and the list goes on - do we really need all of these languages?

    Tack onto that the incredibly moronic decisions in the core languages you're supposed to use, and now you need to spend half your time learning security.

    Whose bright idea was if to allow languages to be able to mix with each other in the same code, and to use languages with next to [b]no[/b] support for even [b]BASIC[/b] security to be the primary languages of choice on the Internet?

    It's no wonder web development is 10 times slower than regular application development.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Will Office Web Apps overcome cloud biases?

    Not bias, but necessity. I need to be able use my "office" on-line or not. At the least, Word & Excell. These I use many times a day, home & at work. Powerpoint, photo editing, etc. that I seldom NEED to use could stay in cloud. As energy becomes more expensive, more regulated, and demand continues to grow, I believe we will experience more in the way of blackouts & brownouts. I need to be able to continue to function under those conditions, just as I used to continue my studies during "snow days". Network overload is going to increase also, and that just makes it more important to keep your main tools where you can use them.
    olddogv
    • Agreed

      Agreed. Especially on my laptop, which can be
      carried anywhere, including places where there
      is no online access.

      . . . and agreed with PowerPoint and photo
      editing - I never use them online, so no good
      reason to just shove them online.

      "As energy becomes more expensive, more
      regulated, and demand continues to grow, I
      believe we will experience more in the way of
      blackouts & brownouts."

      I doubt blackouts will happen due to just
      demand.

      Government regulation may do it if the more
      extremist environmentalists have their way.

      I should note that blackouts regularly happen
      in states with thunderstorms, hurricanes,
      blizzards, and other fairly regular weather. If
      the ZDNet authors think that California is a
      real representative of how reliable the power
      companies and/or the internet companies are -
      they're just fooling themselves. When I lived
      in MN, a good sized blizzard could knock out
      power for days. Not only would it take the
      power lines down, the ice and snow would make
      it difficult to get repair crews out.

      . . . and that's something that web 2.0
      [b]can't[/b] fix!
      CobraA1
      • Web apps are especially good for students

        In an educational environment, students may want to:

        - collaborate on documents
        - have version control for their documents
        - have their documents backed up automatically
        - access their documents from any computer (running any OS)
        - access their documents from their smartphone

        Except for a small percentage of "power" users, I see less of a reason for people (especially students), to use a desktop office suite. HTML5/Gears even allows web apps to function offline.
        linuser
        • They can be bad as well.

          In an educational environment, students may want to:

          - Write equations for math classes

          - Have and be able to create templates for documents

          - Be able to send the document to the instructor with the exact formatting the instructor wanted

          - Be able to access their documents when some very-intelligent-but-ethically-challenged kid figures out how to bypass the security and shut down the network

          - Be able to print the document for the aging tenured professor who still can't use the online grading system

          I have [b]NOT[/b] seen:

          - Students who collaborate, except on the occasional group project. 99% of "collaboration" is called "plagiarism" in a school setting.

          - Students outside the Computer Science department who use any sort of version control.

          In all honesty - you write up a report, turn it in, *maybe* get one chance to revise it, and that's it. Unlike a real-life project, nothing is ongoing in an educational environment.

          You turn it in, and that's it. When the course is done, everything is turned in and finished. Where's the need for version control in that?

          Backing up is a fair assessment, although I've been using Live Mesh for that. Don't need an online office suite for that. Same with remote access.

          "HTML5/Gears even allows web apps to function offline. "

          Assuming the cached copy of the app and its data are still good. I've had my share of issues with Gmail and offline access when it decides the cached data is no good.

          Online docs has its bad and its good. I'm using Live Mesh, and that works for me.

          Here are my reasons for sticking with Office:

          -Everything is available on both my laptop or my Palm when away from home, thanks to Live Mesh and Palm's sync software. Both have offline document access. Never had a reason to use an online office app for that.

          -Since Live Mesh has online storage, I always have a backup and online access to them.

          -No, I do not consider it a "backup" if it's only on Google's servers. I consider it a "backup" only if I have it in two or more places I can directly access.

          -Office has a good equation editor. I'm taking high-level math classes, and I really do need all of the features it offers, and not some watered-down equation editor. WYSIWYG also makes it fast - which actually makes it decent for taking notes.

          -I use Live Mesh to sync, and I love it. Frankly, I'm more impressed with that than with online docs. I can access my docs online [b]and[/b] offline with it. No need to go through the hassle of downloading to get a local copy, no need to go through the hassle of uploading a copy somebody gave me, and no need to worry about whether Gears is working or not.

          -Yes, absolutely, I do use the occasional "advanced" feature in Office. And I don't realize how much I miss it until I try to use Google Docs.

          -I really need the table of contents, page numbering, and footnote features for the advanced English classes, especially in the later classes with longer papers. I recently wrote a paper that used nearly everything in the "References" tab in Word 2007. No way I'd want to create all of that manually in Google Docs.

          -Yes, there are holes in the college's wi-fi system, and in some classrooms I have no wi-fi at all.

          -Excel has no equal in online docs. It's not even close.

          -Same with PowerPoint. Google's presentation editor is useless.

          -There's no OneNote in Google docs. This is probably the #1, most valuable piece of software in the Office suite for students.

          -Gmail is okay for email, but it's royally messed up for PIM stuff. And the filters are lacking (no ability for a filter to delete labels, no sending stuff to groups via a filter). And the flat "label" organization scheme is a nightmare. Frankly, I'm not sure why everybody loves it. I absolutely have to use the "Better Gmail 2" addon in Firefox to being the hierarchy back.

          It's just not worth it for me, okay? The loss is simply far greater than the gain.
          CobraA1
  • WEB Apps on the WEB is a BAD Idea!

    WEB Apps on the WEB is a BAD Idea!

    Having the WEB is one thing. Using an OFFICE suite on the WEB is another THING ALTOGETHER!!!

    Let the world be wise: Remember, not everyone has WEB access on the planet with or without having an OFFICE suite :-).

    Let the world be wise: Remember, that same WEB access can go DOWN for God's sake! {Even the whole dang WEB could go down from a nuke and you'll cry. Of course everything for that matter will go down lol.}

    Let the world be wise: Remember, that same WEB has costs related to it and if one if forced to cut WEB out of their lives, then their access to their OFFICE suite in the so-called "cloud" is GONE, baby, GONE!!!

    Keep the apps on the PC for crying out loud. And allow the WEB to unite us all as it does now!!! This goes with saying, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! :-)

    Finally, let?s think first before we go crazy and forget what the WEB is good for and what common sense is all about. :-)

    [Sure those who want to use WEB apps on the WEB can do it lol. Mr. Bill Gates, please be my guess!]
    registerlist
  • Can You Call is a Bias?

    It not really a bias that users have. Its just that they are more comfortable using a certain technology. Many working people love Outlook. It does have some shortcomings as compared to a web based suite, but its familiarity, speed and power over weighs that. That is why even Google Apps finally decided to integrate with Outlook. I guess we are at a transitional stage. Web applications offer benefits, but cannot duplicate the power and speed of on premise solutions. A hybrid could be a good idea for now. For example we use MS Office and Outlook, in tandem with web based <a href="http://www.hyperoffice.com">HyperOffice</a> for collaboration, which integrates with the two.
    management_geek