Is JotSpot a Microsoft Office killer?

Is JotSpot a Microsoft Office killer?

Summary: Nick Carr has an interesting post in Microsoft almost certainly will enter the Web Office suite market response to the new Web Office wiki released yesterday by JotSpot, covered here on my blog and also by Dan Farber. Dan called JotSpot's new product a "nascent wiki-based office suite", which is how I see it too - because the new JotSpot wiki integrates word processing, spreadsheets, calendars, File Cabinets, Photo Pages.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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Nick Carr has an interesting post in Microsoft almost certainly will enter the Web Office suite market response to the new Web Office wiki released yesterday by JotSpot, covered here on my blog and also by Dan Farber. Dan called JotSpot's new product a "nascent wiki-based office suite", which is how I see it too - because the new JotSpot wiki integrates word processing, spreadsheets, calendars, File Cabinets, Photo Pages.

Nick Carr agrees that "more office tools will come to reside on the web", however he's not convinced that JotSpot building a Web Office suite is the best way for them to go about it. His main argument is that the Web Office suite market "is Microsoft's to lose". He notes:

'As Microsoft continues to expand its own web functionality, adding a web services layer to Office and incorporating wiki functionality as well as other collaboration tools, it will have an enormous advantage. Its web services will be integrated from the get-go with the business world's default productivity suite, Microsoft Office. It's going to be awfully hard to compete head-on with Microsoft if your marketing pitch is that your product "has some of the familiarity and functionality of Office."'

If that was all that JotSpot is doing, I'd agree with Nick. But I think he's missed an important part of JotSpot's strategy - that they're not only embracing the Microsoft Office suite of products, they aim to extend it too. This was something that JotSpot CEO Joe Kraus was at pains to point out in my interview with him back in March. At that time Kraus told me:

"Our goal wasn't just to build Excel online. In fact I believe that Excel will be 'Excel Online'. Microsoft isn't dumb and they get this revolution about 'software as a service' much more than they got the Internet revolution. They're getting it much more quickly. So we believe where Tracker is headed is not only to embrace the capabilities of Excel - you've got to do that. But you've also got to extend it beyond what Excel is currently envisioned as today, in order to provide lasting value. Because otherwise I think you're going to get your lunch eaten, over time as Microsoft rolls in."

So JotSpot knows full well that Microsoft can - and probably will - eat their lunch in the Web Office suite market. But I think what they're doing with their wiki-based office apps is extending office software functionality, which is really their only chance to gain market share off Microsoft (still a huge task though).

On this topic, Joe Wilcox of Microsoft Monitor is skeptical that Microsoft will ever do a Web Office suite:

"I'll be first to say that I don't expect Microsoft to release a hosted version of Office anytime soon, if ever. Big reason: There is no reason. According to JupiterResearch surveys, 6 percent of businesses with 100 or employees use a hosted productivity suite like ThinkFree. That's a small percentage, and I suspect much of it represents testing or experimentation. Office 2007 is so profitable, it's like a Federal Reserve Mint that prints money. Microsoft won't muck with Office on the desktop, unless there is serious hosted competition--and there isn't any."
(emphasis mine)

Again, like with Nick Carr's post, JupiterResearch: 6% of businesses use a Web Office suite already it's hard to argue against the logic of what Joe Wilcox is saying. But then again, 6% of businesses use a Web Office suite already?! That's actually higher than I thought it would be. As I've said many times before here, I think we're at the very early stages of the Web Office. The functionality and stability of web-based office apps is still a fair way behind that of a modern-day desktop suite, like MS Office. But over time web-based technology and stability will improve - and so I'm confident that when the Web platform matures, the collaboration and networking aspects that Web-based suites offer will gradually take market share from desktop suites. 

And mark my words, Microsoft will certainly move with that trend. However Wilcox is right to say that Microsoft will only do that if they get "serious hosted competition". I think it's only a matter of time before that competition arises. Whether it's JotSpot, or ThinkFree, or some other Web Office suite contender - remains to be seen. But the underlying trend of the Office suite moving to the Web platform is, I believe, clear to see.

See Also: Web-based collaboration apps invade the enterprise; Embracing and Extending Microsoft; Web Office Suite: best of breed products

Topic: Microsoft

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24 comments
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  • Will a pointed stick replace the ball point pen.

    Naw, don't think so.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • There's a big market for pointed sticks.

      They're called "pencils." And for some applications, yeah, they replace pens. For instance, you don't bring a #2 ballpoint pen to the standardized test.
      dave.leigh9
      • Then go sell them.

        I am just certain you'll become rich and famous. NOT!
        No_Ax_to_Grind
    • I Made Millions In The Blunt Club Industry

      Until the caveman died out...
      itanalyst
    • Message has been deleted.

      itanalyst
  • Rather than reivent the wheel and extending it, just extend Office

    There are several things MS can do to blunt efforts like JotSpot. It can host Office (or just about any GUI app) on Windows Terminal Server, and make the service be ad supported, subscription based, etc. And that is, provided there is actually a market for this. MS could alternately sell cheap versions of Office that are subsidized by ads. Also, I think a lot of MS partners will make extensions to Office via Sharepoint and other web services. In addition, I believe there will be companies who will be distributing Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) that are extensions of Office as well.

    Therefore I think if there are companies that would like to make money by offering features that Office doesn?t have, they should consider, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and providing their extensions, just leverage Office and extend it by providing supporting web services and RIAs based on Office.
    P. Douglas
    • Formula for suicide

      [i]I think if there are companies that would like to make money by offering features that Office doesn?t have, they should consider, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and providing their extensions, just leverage Office and extend it by providing supporting web services and RIAs based on Office.[/i]

      Umm -- right. Sort of like the other wildly successful companies over the last quarter-century who based their businesses on being a partner to Microsoft: Lattice, Stac, IBM, ...

      I believe the list currently has the media device manufacturers and security companies being considered for membership.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Not all partners need to know how to Boogie

        [i]Umm -- right. Sort of like the other wildly successful companies over the last quarter-century who based their businesses on being a partner to Microsoft: Lattice, Stac, IBM, ...

        I believe the list currently has the media device manufacturers and security companies being considered for membership.[/i]

        MS has thousands of profitable partners. While it is true that from time to time, MS will make moves that encroach on its partners? turfs, for the vast majority of partners, the relationship is a good deal. There are certain areas in which partnering with MS is like dancing with an elephant ? such as providing services that are susceptible to being incorporated into the OS. I guess if you are going to do business in one of these areas, I you will just have to learn how to John Travolta your way through it.
        P. Douglas
        • Ranching, part II

          [i]MS has thousands of profitable partners. While it is true that from time to time, MS will make moves that encroach on its partners? turfs, for the vast majority of partners, the relationship is a good deal.[/i]

          And being a cow on a cattle ranch is also a good deal -- although it's somewhat better for the female half of the population.

          It's real, real easy to not bother about those corrals next to the highway when the trucks aren't anywhere in sight and the grass is green.

          Being a Microsoft partner is like that -- you have to worry about your weight all the time but it's much easier if you just don't think about it at all. Those who do think about it are up against the simple fact that Microsoft needs to keep growing exponentially to prevent a stock collapse -- and math can tell you things that you really don't want to know.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Businesses will partner with MS as long as it makes sense to do so

            [i]Those who do think about it are up against the simple fact that Microsoft needs to keep growing exponentially to prevent a stock collapse -- and math can tell you things that you really don't want to know.[/i]

            Companies partner with MS because it makes more business sense to do so. Most people don?t see MS? growth stalling in the near future. If / when they do, I?m sure they will find options to continue doing business, or get out of their businesses.
            P. Douglas
          • Plan B in Outer Space

            [i]Companies partner with MS because it makes more business sense to do so.[/i]

            I'm restraining a "Well, [b]DUH[/b]!" moment.

            The question is whether they are actually assessing the situation or just taking the path of least resistance. Adobe is a wonderful example of the latter.

            Microsoft "partners" need a viable Plan B at least as much as a fighter jet needs an ejection seat -- and like the ejection seat, it's critical to know when to pull the handles.

            [i]Most people don?t see MS? growth stalling in the near future.[/]

            It already has. The only parts of MS that make money have saturated their markets and thanks to monopoly pricing there's no way to increase ASP without reducing net income.

            There's a reason their stock has been flat-to-down for more than five years.

            MS has to grow or the stock collapses even more, and they need new businesses to grow. Everything that they've tried that doesn't leverage their monopolies is a money pit, so the obvious solution is to eat their own young.

            Besides, by now it's a habit.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
  • You own shares?

    Can't think of any other reason for saying a Web based Office (which doesn't exist and most businesses or at least the rational ones would be extremely reluctant to use) is going to offer great new extensions to Office.

    Yup what the world needs is new features for a spreadsheet.

    Not just a sharp stick but a clay tablet as well.
    TonyMcS
    • What about collaboration and networking?

      You don't think being able to collaborate on a spreadsheet, do mashups with other apps, turn each field into a piece of rich data, etc is useful? None of that has any benefit for spreadsheets going forward? Because that's the kind of thing I mean by a Web Office...
      Web20Explorer
  • new economy - the web economy

    Before the dot com bust it was said that web business would replace brick and mortar business.

    However we now know that web business exists but only to complement brick and mortar business and only in a few instances.

    eg amazon.com - but I havent seen Barnes and Noble sales go down.

    Infact a web office suite might just be to complement a desktop office suite. Access your docuements on any computer (mac, pc while on the go ...)
    zzz1234567890
  • There's a difference between "online" and "web-based"

    The key to making things "connected" isn't that everything has to be web-based. The key for MS is to give their desktop apps the necessary online abilities.

    Remember, the Internet isn't just the world wide web. The web was originally for viewing hypertext documents, not for simulating a spreadsheet app. Leave complex apps like a spreadsheet on the desktop where they belong, but give the apps the necessary ability to interact with other machines across the Internet.
    PB_z
    • ... he wouldn't have created desktop computers.

      [i]Remember, the Internet isn't just the world wide web.[/i]

      Tell that to Microsoft -- they're the prime pusher for using Port 80 as the universal transport layer.

      Ever think what all of that encapsulated Remote Procedure Call traffic will do for network security?

      [i]The web was originally for viewing hypertext documents, not for simulating a spreadsheet app.[/i]

      You're verging on a religious argument, and the following quote gets even more so.

      The WWW was originally for sharing knowledge and collaboration. The only thing that putting a spreadsheet app on the WWW does is speed up the process. I've chaired entirely too many meetings where having real-time remote access to a document would have saved a roomfull of people days of travel.

      [i]Leave complex apps like a spreadsheet on the desktop where they belong, but give the apps the necessary ability to interact with other machines across the Internet.[/i]

      You haven't been reading about the botnets? [b]They[/b] are interacting with each other on the Internet. Much as I like peer processes, they have limits -- and secure arms-length collaboration isn't one of their strong suits.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Mac Office

    The internet provides topicality and reference. an office package
    needs to tap into the internet, and not often at that. It certainly
    doesn't need to live there. People have shown that they find the
    desktop office is worth paying for.

    Office will rule unless it has the rug pulled out from under it.
    Who is capable? What people are responding to is the fact that
    Microsoft might pull their thumbs out if real competition arrived.
    People are uncomfortable with them being the sole custodian of
    office productivity. They are looking for an escape route and a
    viable alternative. Not an imitator, an innovator.

    It's still not practical to require internet connectivity to throw 26
    characters around. So what will it be? Open office? JotSpot. Well
    sort of.

    Look to Apple to gain market share and confidence. Wait, a
    watch a company with a track record of purchasing and refining
    complex media apps to do the same thing with office
    productivity. It will be folded into iWork or a pro variant will be
    released. In the end is office more complex and capable that
    Shake, Final Cut, Aperature, iTunes? My guess is no.

    Watch for a slow decay in MS marketshare, not some grand
    move online.

    Look to Microsoft's decay to provide a lot of opportunities for
    3rd party software. Is JotSpot capable of contributing to that
    decay? While the're alive, to some small degree I suppose. They
    are more likely to burn through a boatload of VC then be
    acquired at a bargain. This notion they can be a catalyst and
    driving force? Not by a long shot.

    Microsoft's strength comes from platform. Its ubiquity and
    mindshare is paramount. Competition comes exclusively in the
    form of "platform" competion. When our contributors
    understand this, they may stop offering straw men.

    Wait a sec, maybe they understand it already. Hmmm.
    Harry Bardal
  • Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007

    I have recently read a lot of speculation on the various Web-Based office productivity tools and how (and sometimes IF) Microsoft intends to compete with these various offerings, and what sort of direction Microsoft is taking with Office towards online capability. What I have not seen is anyone actually bothering to do research on Microsofts upcoming offerings in the Office and office related web space.

    With the introduction of Microsoft Office 2007, Office is undergoing a complete, ground-web, re-write with very strong ties to the .NET 2.0 framework, including the upcoming Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF). The former (WCF) massively simplifies the ability of Office to be exposed as a Web Service, basically allowing Web-based functionality to be implemented by 3rd parties. Furthermore is the release of Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007 (MOSS), which adds web interface and integration, including Hosted services, to Office 2007. For those familiar with the limited and somewhat buggy Sharepoint 2003, understand that the new Sharepoint shares little more than the name with the existing version.

    Microsofts target is not, and has not been for some time, the end users, but rather the Enterprise, where the real money is. Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server allows the integration of Office into a web network and collaboration with other enterprise level applications, such as Microsoft CRM, Business Intelligence Server, BizTalk, etc. Because of this high level of integration with other enterprise level products, I personally do not see that the offerings such as JotSpot, Google Spreadsheets, etc., while very good products for the end user and very small business, have any chance of making the slightest dent in Microsofts market share for the enterprise customer base. For very small businesses and the end user, Office is probably not the right choice, both because of license costs and unnecessary complexity of the applications. But for the enterprise, Office is more than a spreadsheet, a word processor, and slide-show maker...Office is a development platform, and that is Microsoft's focus.

    you can do a google search for Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server to find demo's, walkthrough's, etc. regarding the functionality i am referring too.
    Paul.Muharsky
    • All or nothing

      [i]Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server allows the integration of Office into a web network and collaboration with other enterprise level applications, such as Microsoft CRM, Business Intelligence Server, BizTalk, etc. [/i]

      Conversely, if for whatever reason you aren't prepared to become a 100% Microsoft shop, all of that "integration" works against you, much as the MSO2K3 tendency to pop up ads for various MS server products at the drop of a paperclip.

      Microsoft's "my way or the highway" dictates are a large part of what makes the others so attractive.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Interesting research

      and interesting strategy. But I see potential weaknesses.

      The first is in abandoning the small user who, I agree will be increasingly inclined to flee the expensive and arcane Office products for something cheaper and simpler on the web. And unlike large enterprise users, will be less bound by concerns for privacy etc.

      But will the large enterprise be willing to follow Microsoft's vision, of integrating all these apps? Microsoft has shown no ability to produce the lean, elegant and yet practical solutions that everyone is looking for. Ever. Sure they have ideas, but their actual products are complicated, obscure, often poorly thought through, buggy and poorly documented. As a CIO, are you willing to go to your peers and try to convince them again to buy into another wild dream with huge cost overruns? As a user division, will you go for it?

      I think five, ten years ago but it's getting to be a harder sell.
      Langalibalene