'

Web-based Office? Forget it. Online apps will be collaborative and intuitive.

Following up on Richard Macmanus' recent post about the new crop of Web-based versions of Word and other Office apps, Phil Wainewright says that kind of thinking is barking up the wrong tree.

Following up on Richard Macmanus' recent post about the new crop of Web-based versions of Word and other Office apps, Phil Wainewright says that kind of thinking is barking up the wrong tree. What office users need - as opposed to cubicle users - is the ability to collaborate, share, revise, and approve. That means a new crop of networked applications built with that, not formatting or mail-merge, in mind.  

 Where the Web comes into its own 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. Before we had the Internet, of course, people used to congregate in offices for the precise purpose of performing this kind of collaboration. That's why I say Microsoft's suite would be more accurately named Cubicle. It was originally developed with no collaborative capabilities whatsoever, and whatever capabilities have subsequently been grafted on are pretty lamentable on the whole, up to and including SharePoint. The product thus bears little or no relation to the true concept of offices as people experience and use them in the real world.

That's why I say that anyone who emulates Microsoft Office in an attempt to build the killer collaborative application suite of Web 2.0 is on a hiding to nothing. Workers who do a lot of work in isolation will most likely continue to use Windows and Office. The rest of us will use a completely new generation of applications that automate collaboration and integration rather than isolated individual endeavors. Whatever Microsoft has historically found success with on the cubicle-bound desktop is irrelevant to what is going to succeed in the collaborative, virtual workspaces of the Web 2.0 era.

Desktop Applications White Papers