The future of Microsoft office
Office is on the ropes, there’s no doubt in my mind that Office 2007 is a great product, I use it every day and I would probably go so far as to say that it’s a joy to use. That said I know it’s showing its age, it’s just too difficult to work with virtual team members, too complex for the basic stuff I need to do – day in day out – and too centered on the specific document I’m working on rather than improving my overall personal productivity and personal knowledge management practices. Of course with Web 2.0 and Open Source alternatives there’s now no shortage of great innovation going on that currently – in my view – complements Office, but within a year will probably be competing and I am relieved.
Relieved – because Microsoft really needed a big scare, a scare like Linux has given the Windows team, something to shake them out of their comfortable slow cycle of incremental innovation and into the real world. I don’t think we have even seen a hint yet of what this will mean – it’s certainly a lot more than Office Live Workplace, but I am quietly confident.
Why? because Office 2007 was all about competing with the past, a new UI meant that the Open Source clones hit a brick wall and a new file format meant that competitors needed to spend many development cycles going nowhere implementing the incredibly complex Office XML format.
This leaves the huge Office 14 team to focus on the future, solving the problems of inter-enterprise virtual teams, improved ad-hoc real-time collaboration, collaborative authoring, more transparent offline/online transitions with SharePoint, richer web functionality etc. I have no doubt that Microsoft has the skills (look at SharePoint, OneNote and Excel services for example) it’s all about the motivation – and right now their motivation (loss of one of their premier cash cows) must be at an all time high.
I’m excited by the potential as well, Office is still the most important IT tool I use and I see tremendous potential for improvement if Microsoft gets it right, what’s equally interesting is to see that IBM are even making a serious attempt at integrating their collaboration tools with Office (Quickr and SameTime) and as a user of both that’s also very good news. Right now Quickr seems better integrated with Windows for example than SharePoint 2007 is!