Better late than never: Microsoft Office Web apps percolating

Better late than never: Microsoft Office Web apps percolating

Summary: When Microsoft announced this week that its next version of Office will include web apps there was no real surprise. But it reminded me of Steven Wright on Dr.


When Microsoft announced this week that its next version of Office will include web apps there was no real surprise. But it reminded me of Steven Wright on Dr. Katz when he acknowledged that he usually had four or five cups of coffee before his first cup of coffee. Knowledge workers have started drinking at the web apps cafe, but are just getting warmed up for the real thing. It’s when Microsoft’s brew is ready that it starts to count.

Microsoft has been sloth like to move its apps to the web, but it is coming at it from a position of strength. Zoho has a great buzz and feels like it adds an app a week while for Google it’s an all or nothing bid focused on alternatives to desktop productivity from Office. Microsoft’s taking on wikis and other collaborative needs, blending the experience in the tools. Want collaborative authoring? They have it (by the way, so will Adobe soon). Want a web-based editor? Got it. Want the web-based editor to work with your peers that have the full desktop while you collaborate on a contract or meeting notes? Got it. But bringing it all together without being overly complex or undercutting Microsoft’s Office suite margins takes time.

Microsoft is trying to evolve to keep its dominance in desktop productivity and maintain relevance. Today Microsoft continues to reign supreme in the desktop productivity tools space. The question is whether or not knowledge workers will be satisfied by lighter weight versions of their desktop tools, as Microsoft will be offering only scaled back web versions of its Office programs. Forrester’s data shows the uptake of web productivity apps in the enterprise to be miniscule even if interest is expressed. That’s because no one’s really satisfied with lighter weight versions. If they were a viable alternative to Office, we’d have seen much greater adoption of Google and others. And for enterprises believing they will be able to reduce licensing costs with web-based Office apps, they will likely be disappointed as availability will be through existing volume licensing agreements. Deployment costs should go down, however, and these are material.

So far, time seems to be on Microsoft’s side. Because even though web-based productivity tools exist, no one has done much more yet than mimic Microsoft’s capabilities. And no one has successfully figured out an efficient content collaboration strategy that engages knowledge workers the way they want to work – at the office, on the go, on the web, offline, authenticated or not, or some combination of these depending on a person’s role, location, personal preferences – or what day of the week it is. Choice will reign supreme as the knowledge worker demographic shifts and expectations increase on being able to transition seamlessly between devices and desktops, between wikis and Word. Microsoft recognizes this shift and can leverage its familiar apps to address this gap. But it’s still hurry up and wait for now.

Topics: Collaboration, Browser, Hardware, Microsoft, Software

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  • Microsoft is pulling an Apple here

    It seems to me that Microsoft isn't going to bother until they believe they can do it right. While I've used Google Docs, no one is going to mistake it as a replacement for a desktop word processor or spreadsheet. Let everyone else do the heavy lifting and the real innovation and then come in at the last minute, steal all the good ideas, discard the bad ones, and then claim to have invented it all yourself!
    • Personally I don't blame them

      for waiting. My guess is they have actually listened to the negative response consumers expressed against their office software of choice no longer even being on their machine.

      Less then half of all users with internet have broadband. The rest are still on dial-up. Picture doing business on dial-up. Nothing could be worse then knowing you lost a contract because your web app server is down. Not to mention the inherently bad security practices on the web these days.

      It just not good business and they know it. Google had nothing to lose by offering web only because they didn't have a real office. They gather the few people that liked the idea. Microsoft knows that dabling in that small of a market can lead to overload and for them possible monopoly claims.

      They will have to edge their way in to avoid rocking the boat.

      Frankly I hope they never do.
  • Quite frankly...

    I strongly dislike the idea of online apps. I don't want my documents and my software sitting on someone else's computer. Until there is high speed internet everywhere.... and I mean everywhere, it's still very impractical. Not to mention having to trust a company to keep my docs secure and to allow me access to software I pay for.

    I took years, decades to get computer power up to speed to run our apps without having to take coffee breaks everytime you switched apps, and now they want to slow it back down again.

    If they offer it as a package where you get to use either it will be fine, but replacing real apps with online apps is just plain stupid.
    • I agree with you.


      >I strongly dislike the idea of online apps


      >I took years, decades to get computer power >up to speed to run our apps without having to >take coffee breaks everytime you switched >apps, and now they want to slow it back down >again.
      >If they offer it as a package where you get >to use either it will be fine, but replacing >real apps with online apps is just plain >stupid.

      sincerely, I agree with you. It is my opinion that "fat applications" never die.


      Marco Mangiante
    • How abt remote applications then ?

      How about hosting our own apps and data then ? That way we have complete control of our system yet have the benefit of doing stuff remotely

      One such software to do it is by using ThinServer
      • And the other way

        is to use MS Small Business Server/SharePoint. We have no trouble accessing our data from the office or home, share the documents effectively and use a VLAN for direct access to the network disks remotely.

        Sure it costs money, but I do know where to go if I have a problem ;-)
        • Well... my point was....

          For home and business use, switching to an external host to give me access to my stuff from anywhere is not how I do business. It's MY stuff not theirs.

          But for sharing throught the enterprise, SharePoint and services like that are more then suffecient. Web apps are good in some cases. However when it comes to sensitive docs and total availability, web apps don't hit the mark. Why not real apps that allow access to web storage and a web interface to allow emergency access. But this talk of moving away from real apps and replacing them with web apps is just anyway of controlling people's use of software they paid for.

          Bottom line, software is not, and should never be a service. Software that comes with a service or option to purchase the service is acceptable.
  • Whoopie!!!

    i think this really takes away the last argument in favor of novel fully browser based collaboration suites like <A HREF=""> Google Apps </A> as opposed to solutions like <A HREF=""> HyperOffice Collaboration Suite </A> which work with microsoft file types and have a more comprehensive feature range.