There's nothing like a big announcement from Microsoft to start what my friend Ed Bott charitably calls "OS food fights". Yesterday's soft launch of Office Live is a classic example of how good ideas can go right off the rails when marketing messes around with customers' and prospects' closely held perceptions and competitors overreact out of fear, loathing, or a the scent of blood in the water.
OK... repeat after me: Office Live is not Office (on the web).
Every time I think I'm ready to post this, someone fires another shot and I duck back under my desk. There is no ambivalence about Office Live. Some people are inciting the trolls to come out of their dens. Others are trying to provide meaningful commentary. Among my my fellow ZDNet bloggers alone, the following questions and observations have already appeared:
- Russell Shaw: Where's the VoIP in Office Live? : "Seems to me the Office Live Mail feature could really use a click-to-talk button. Oh sure there is an MSN Messenger icon but what if you wanted a real in-the-ear conversation with the person that just emailed you? Isn't that why Microsoft bought Teleo last August?
Oh, sorry. That's probably another division. And not always do separate divisions of a company that is more Balkanized than you think talk to each other."
- Phil Wainewright: Whatever Office Live is, it ain't the Web Office: "The power of Microsoft's branding is so great that slapping the labels 'Live' and 'Office' on a piecemeal bundle of rehashed services seems to have the whole world agog. The evidence doesn't justify the excitement. Today's beta of Office Live is a repackaging of various web presence offerings that Microsoft previously tried (and largely failed) to market under the bcentral brand for a number of years."
- Dion Hinchcliffe: Office Live: Application suite or platform? : "What's not clear until the service is actually available, is if Microsoft has just put some lipstick on its aging Sharepoint and Frontpage services, or is it adding real value? While add-ins seem to be supported, wholesale reuse of Office Live pieces does not seem to be. This also has major implications and if Office Live isn't ultimately an almost completely open platform, where users can safely and easily move all their business data in and out, even to leave and go to competitive services, it may be hard for businesses to commit."
37 Signals' Jason Friedl, an inarguably bright guy, spouts off some serious Kool-Aid drinker nonsense in a post about Office Live and incites a lovely flame war in the comments. He disingenuously writes: "I never thought I’d see a web app suite that has more system requirements than a desktop app, but I guess I should never underestimate Microsoft." I know he's being intentionally obtuse in making this statement and knows, better than most, that Office Live is anything but a web app suite. There's not much more to the post than what I quoted here. It's in the comments that you'll find the food fight entertainment.
If you want to watch the conversation (or shouting match if you prefer) proliferate, check tech.memorandum. I'm still waiting for my beta invite to kick out the requisite product key so I can try the new services out. I do plan to write what I hope will be a meaningful review of the different Office Live offerings after I've actually used them. There seems to be more than enough from-the-hip opinion shooting going on at the moment .