Hosted Office? Been there, done that, no thanks!

Hosted Office? Been there, done that, no thanks!

Summary: Take it from me, no one in their right minds who has a choice will ever voluntarily opt for an exclusively hosted desktop.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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I suppose hosting OpenOffice might be one way of fixing its allegedly dire startup and file-opening performance, but that's probably the only thing you can say in favor of the idea. If you don't believe me, ask Optus. The Australian telecoms and Internet provider just announced it's withdrawing its Online Office service — which offered hosted Microsoft Office and a suite of other application services — after 18 months of failing to attract customers.

Optus is just about the last proponent of hosted Office to see the light. Most others who've tried either pulled out long ago or went bust in the process of trying to make a go of it. Hosted Office, like the network computer and the $100 PC, is the sort of thing people always think would be great for other people, but would never dream of using themselves. Every pundit, entrepreneur and technology vendor who opiniates about these computing-solutions-for-the-masses is full of how great they'll be for small businesses, clerical and shopfloor workers, the disadvantaged and the impoverished. But never once have I heard any of them say, 'Hey, I use it myself. Never use anything else.' Heck, even Scott McNealy and Larry Ellison still have PCs in their offices.

The reason there's no point in hosting office suites, as I explained last month, is that they consist of applications designed to speed the work that people do sitting alone in their cubicles.

"Where the Web comes into its own," I added, "is in collaborative applications, such as jointly authoring a report or an article or designing a presentation in co-operation with a virtual team of domain experts."

That's why David Berlind is absolutely right to pick up on Jonathan Schwarz's remarks the other day about OpenOffice and AJAX. Fortunately, Sun's president and COO seems to realize there's no point in "browserizing" OpenOffice, as David puts it. Instead, concentrate on enabling people to collaborate on documents far more efficiently than is possible today.

There always will be some poor souls — I think of them as 'captive' users — for whom corporate policy will condemn them to the purgatory of hosted personal productivity environments. To the delight of these poor victims' IT taskmasters, IBM last week introduced the Virtualized Hosted Client Infrastructure platform, which combines VMWare virtualization software with Windows XP remote-client software from Citrix Systems to deliver up to 15 desktop environments from a single blade server. There will always occasionally be circumstances that dictate the delivery of this form of ultra-locked-down client environment. Just be glad that, if you're IT-savvy enough to be reading this, you're unlikely ever to be on the receiving end of it. Take it from me, no one in their right minds who has a choice will ever knowingly opt for an exclusively hosted desktop.

Topic: Tech Industry

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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23 comments
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  • Private hosted office does work

    Within an enterprise, a hosted office paradign can work very effectively. I work in a UNIX support group and my workstation is running Linux. I use an ICAClient to connect to a farm of Windows servers that host Office and a wide variety of other windows based products.

    I'm very satisfied with my experience in this environment as there is always a farm server available (although we occasionally see a server take a dive - oh well, that's windows for you) and my "desktop" is the same regardless of farm server I'm connected to.

    Our overall response and stability is great. I get all the office tools I need without sacrificing my workstation stability. The servers and their software are always well maintained and kept up todate and overall this type of arrangement has saved our organization bundles of $$ in capital and support costs, we also have a very consistent security model in place for minimal effort. Oh yeah, our model is supporting about 3 thousand users.

    While I can see that public hosted office models may not be appealing to consumers, it an enterprise hosted office model can be very good indeed.
    sisotek
  • A few points

    I just want to say that the speed problems with OO.o are a bit more than alleged. They're proven as far as I'm concerned.

    As for WebOffice speeding things up, it actually makes things even worse. ThinkFree does a pretty feature-rich online Office Suite using Java, and it's a beast.

    But good point overall. I challenged anyone to use WebOffice themselves and no one took the bait.
    george_ou
    • Do you mean polycom WebOffice?

      This is conferencing/collaboration, not general purpose office usage. If you have ever had a teleconference (I happen to know than many companbies use network whiteboards, filesharing systems, and voice conference calls), that is the target for this product. These are just portal systems and collaboration 9as back in 1999 with Collabra from Netscape and Sharepoint from Microsoft (now))

      [url=http://www.polycom.com/]Polycom{/url] and [url=http://www.webofficedemo.com/vendor_customization/Polycom/lobby.jsp]WebOffice Demo[/url]
      B.O.F.H.
      • Fixed URLs

        [url=http://www.webofficedemo.com/vendor_customization/Polycom/lobby.jsp]Demo[/url]
        [url=http://www.polycom.com/products_services/1,1443,pw-8092-6138,00.html]Polycom WebOffice[/url]

        There is also: [url=http://www.webofficenow.com/index2.html]WebOffice Inc[/url] for filesharing and conferencing.
        [url=http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/technologies/sharepoint/default.mspx]Sharepoint[/url] from Microsoft.
        B.O.F.H.
    • ha ha speed problems "proven"

      Your whole (logically daft) proposition was that load and save times would highlight how MSoffice was faster operationally than OO2.

      Windows itself takes 30 seconds to unzip the compressed xml test file you posted WITHOUT ANY PARSING at all. OO2 takes 90 seconds in total to load the file, and 50 seconds to save it.

      You said (I couldn't test it since I don't have MSoffice 2003) that MSOffice took 25 seconds to load a compressed file with the same contents.

      However when I added 320,000 formulas to the same file, OO2 recalculated them all instantaneously, and a global search and replace according to you took 42 seconds in OO2 (on my system this took 24 seconds, and my system is 1/3 the CPU speed of your system, so go figure), and 30 seconds in MSoffice.

      Even if we take your figures for search and replace, OO2 is only 30% slower than MSOffice.

      So you initial assertion that comparative Load and Save times of a stupidly enormous spreadsheet (not representative of most users) highlighting inefficiencies in OO2 IS SIMPLY NOT PROVEN.

      by YOUR FIGURES, you cannot say OO2 is "slow": the most you can say is "slow at load and save" and this is your opinion only, since you make no reference to any study of the average size of spreadsheet people work with.
      hipparchus2001
  • And one on hosted Office

    Microsoft Office hosted on Citrix or Terminal services works pretty well. The problem (as with all hosted models) is that you're reliant on the network and server.

    You?re right that no one would want a dumb terminal when given the choice.
    george_ou
  • Hosted Office?

    I'm not 100% on this. My reasons are largely driven by what I see happening in the real world, rather than assuming the status quo of the isolated individual. I am cming at this from the point that assumes collaboration beomces the norm rather than the exception.

    Many of us are experimenting in the collaborative world through our blogs and wikis. You've already identified collaborative document creation as a potential SaaS winner. I'm already using a service of that kind. It makes a lot more sense than trying to shovel docs around by email. And none of us care that it's a hosted service. We only care that it works securely. That's one BIG plank for Microsoft, potentially scuttled. Except for those occasions where for some ungodly reason, you'd want to delve into macros, mail-merge aqnd bulk printing. But I think that shift around basic functionality opens a Pandora's box.

    Recently I've seen a welter of accounting applications coming down the SaaS pipe. They're a world apart to the good from anything I've seen to date - and I've seen plenty! I'm an accountant by trade and have reviewed hundreds of them.

    Some are using Excel viewer capability. Some produce perfectly servicable reports. Assuming SaaS success, how long before users ask for the bulk of what they do with spreadsheets to create Pivot Tables to take place in a hosted environment?

    That does not of course answer the question about advanced computations. And I don't know if it ever will.

    Over arching these points, customers I am seeing who are experimenting with SaaS are already asking the question - why do I need two environments? They see the potential for coralling day to day tasks in a single (browser) environment because it faciliatates collaboration that delivers value. They are no longer isolated in a cubicle.

    They don't care about AJAX, MSFT, browsers or Windows. They just want stuff to work and they are coming to the belief the browser is the place that should happen. In the end, it is what users want that wins. Not technology or its current barriers. If I'm wrong then why has OSS exploded in the enterprise over the last year?

    But I could be completely missing something. As many of us were around ASP. The trouble is I really don't know. But then I've just dumped Zoho and OpenOffice.org...
    dahowlett@...
  • alleged dire performance of openoffice 2.0 is not proven

    George Ou was using an SXC file, which is not native format for OO2. OpenDocument Spreadsheet is. ODS takes half the time to load.
    When loaded, I added 320,000 formulas across all sheets, recalc was instantaneous.
    Also global string search and replace across all sheets took 24 seconds. (".DWG" to ".dwg").
    OpenOffice isn't the slug that George Ou says.
    If Excel 2003 loads only part of the file to appear to load quicker, then the all sheet recalc and all sheet search and replace will be really slow.
    Who would care if a 100meg file took 90 seconds to load, if when loaded you could work on it for a few hours with instantaneous response.
    hipparchus2000
    • You're obviously blind

      First of all, you're obviously blind if you only think I tested SXC.

      Second, you're way off if you want to tell the world that my 16-sheet sample takes half the time for ODS than SXC format. Your quoted 50 second save time for ODS is pure BS. Anyone who takes the time to try save my .SXC file in to .ODS file knows it. You just keep trolling about in these talkbacks. You have absolutely zero credibility when you can?t even get the fact that I did test the ODS format.

      By the way, I like saving my files every few minutes to make sure I don?t lose any work. There is no way I would tolerate a 170 second delay or even a 10 second delay every time I hit the save button.
      george_ou
      • global search and replace took 24 secs on my dell versus 42 on yours

        You keep saying you've got a 3.4Ghz. My laptop here is a Dell Inspiron 1200. I don't lie.
        Do you think your machine might have some issues there???

        Tell me, you say: "I like saving my files every few minutes to make sure I don?t lose any work".
        Why would you lose work? Does your machine crash that often?
        hipparchus2001
  • "a Web terminal that supports Java may be more capable"

    Sounds like ThinkFree Office Online online.thinkfree.com -- currently supports MS Office formats, they claim ODF is in the works.
    bradw2k
    • It's even more bloated and slower than OO.o

      Just loading the spreadsheet eats up 100 MBs of RAM! It also forces you to scan the web-folder first which they warn you can take up to 30 seconds.
      george_ou
      • why would microsoft go down this hosted office route then?

        If it's going to be so dire???

        Funny how all those java games run so well on 100MHz RISCs in phones huh? 3d games too. Funny.
        hipparchus2001
  • terminals have some excelent advantages

    this is especialy true when the vast majority of sesiions are using nigh on 0 resources

    case in point.

    My school runs a citrix envorinment for all students and staff. as a result, we are able to run litteraly double the number of seats as similar institutions, while all of our servers cost less to buy than the yearly lease of other places.

    site fires have dropped dramaticaly, all aplications are available from all machines, an better still specialist apps can be used at home.
    terminals, when properly qaplyed and managed, don't represent any hinderance, and can be a great way to cut costs.
    giskard
  • Security takes a nosedive...

    Hosted application services, internet based, and outsourced to an application service provider (ASP)is a recipe for disaster.

    Every ASP that I have been hired to penetration test has failed miserably...what they call "security" is mere window dressing when compared with a company's owned and operated computer and application network and can take security into their own hands.

    Offshoring is proving to be a bad idea, with serveral firms beginning to revert back to inhouse and US based IT management and staff. Hosted application service providers will meet with the same fate...a good idea on paper but really bad in its delivery...most of all in security.

    All decisions that are driven by only the bottom-line are the end result of incomplete equations where the qualitative factors of Quality Assurance and Security Assurance are ignored...only to return and bite the bottom-line in unexpected ways.
    cburgess
  • poor little george_ou

    No body shares your biased narrow minded scribbles here, don't you get it you poor little lonely incompetent unloved dishonest miserable confused incoherent mislead arrogant soul?
    No_Brain_To_Think
  • Agregating Office and Other Applications

    I think the real power is in getting Office [which 80% of our work is done in], integrated with collaboration. We run about a 25 person company and everyone goes through an ASP. ProjectXnet.com

    The service handles Exchange, MS Office, Document Locator [a Doc Management Solution for Versionsing, etc..], and Several other SQL based apps that are integrated with Doc Management.

    I dont think you could do this and have anywhere, anytime access without an ASP solution.

    This service particluarly has also cleared PEN tests compliant to Fortune 500 standards, etc..

    So there must be some good ones out there.
    wsmith@...
  • RE: Hosted Office? Been there, done that, no thanks!

    We are finding that enquires are up each week for our application and comparing it to what we used to sell and support for 18 years you can see the writing on the wall for ACT!
    http://www.google.co.uk/trends?q=ACT%21 our application is www.wiredcontact.co.uk the difference is that these guys came into a market place they did not understand and then expect o make money at it amazes me. You can fool some people all of the time and and all of the people some of the time but if you fail to deliver value then your product is going nowhere. NEXT PLEASE
    Paul King
    WiredContact UK
    wiredcontact
  • RE: Hosted Office? Been there, done that, no thanks!

    We are finding that enquires are up each week for our application and comparing it to what we used to sell and support for 18 years you can see the writing on the wall for ACT!
    http://www.google.co.uk/trends?q=ACT%21 our application is http://www.wiredcontact.co.uk the difference is that these guys came into a market place they did not understand and then expect o make money at it amazes me. You can fool some people all of the time and and all of the people some of the time but if you fail to deliver value then your product is going nowhere. NEXT PLEASE
    Paul King
    WiredContact UK
    wiredcontact
  • RE: Hosted Office? Been there, done that, no thanks!

    My company, Nasstar plc, provide a Hosted Desktop service and we've got lots of companies using a fully outsourced Hosted Desktop.

    Act is used by many of them, among lots of other applications that you may have thought were in trouble of being phased out - the beauty of our service is that you can take your entire IT infrastructure and have it hosted.

    The original article for this was posted at a time when there were more arguments against than for this service, such as bandwidth limits, printing issues etc - all of these are now no longer an issue.

    I challenge you to trial the service in it's current state and then give your opinions!

    www.nasstar.com
    dr@...