32 Comments

Summary:

Talk about being overcrowded…. there are 17 different web-office upstarts that are trying to take on Microsoft Office, reports The Red Herring. Joe Wilcox, an analyst with JupiterResearch explains that since people want to work anywhere, and want access to the data from anywhere, it is […]

Talk about being overcrowded…. there are 17 different web-office upstarts that are trying to take on Microsoft Office, reports The Red Herring. Joe Wilcox, an analyst with JupiterResearch explains that since people want to work anywhere, and want access to the data from anywhere, it is no surprise so many players are trying different things. “Microsoft has kept the Office software as is. They are thinking, ‘when you’ve got a good thing going, why mess with it?’,” he tells the magazine. Liam Breck is not buying into the hype around Web Office, and argues that it is a tiny niche. Jason Fried, one of the co-founders of 37Signals offers a more coherent and more balanced answer, when he tells RH, “The modern office is more about real-time collaboration and group chat, and not just a spreadsheet and processor.” I agree – Web Office should not be about replacing the old, but inventing the new web apps that solve some specific problems.

  1. Jason makes an excellent argument. The change is not in the medium, but in the paradigm. The medium, i.e. the web, just enables it.

    Share
  2. First, we need to take Jason’s comments with a grain of salt as he has a reason for saying that the modern office is built around chat and collab as that is, in essence, 37signals sole reason for existence.

    Second, without the spreadsheet and word processing program the chat and collab in the web 2.0 office would be worthless…

    A more interesting bent to the conversation is going to be around how we are going to get from the web based vs. client based conversation to a seemless intergration between both. This is critical as, for example, there is rather limited web access on a plane, on the boat, etc. A truly next gen solution will bridge that chasm and unfortunately for the 17 small fry battling that one out it’s MS’s pole position as they already own the “hard” side of that equation, the desktop client. It will be exponentially easier for MS to move to the web then for the web based apps to displace MS on the desktop.

    r.

    Share
  3. Rob .. You have a very good point about integrating web-based and client-based but again those focus on the medium rather than the need. In a world where people are not co-located, there is a strong need for new paradigms, whether those be document-based collaboration or interactive collaboration. The latter is an area where Microsoft should be leading the field (and to some extent it does)

    Share
  4. I’m a doubter about online office suites. It doesn’t fit my business need. To be honest, I don’t require a large scale collaboration for most of the things I work on, and when I do, I have Sharepoint that I can reach anywhere via VPN and pull the document down myself, edit offline and then reupload to Sharepoint. I think Writely will be one of the few left standing mainly because of Google’s unlimited pile of cash.

    Share
  5. “Microsoft has kept the Office software as is. They are thinking, ‘when you’ve got a good thing going, why mess with it?’”

    Problem is … Microsoft don’t think that. That’s why Office 2007 does away with what we’ve all come to know and introduces the ribbon. I had one look at a demo of Office 2007 and thought, no way are we getting that, I’d have to retrain ALL our staff.

    Web Office has the advantage of being able to open or create a simple document on the fly when you aren’t in front of your full blown machine.

    Share
  6. The online/offline argument is a technology blind. If the on premise network goes pear shaped, no-one’s collaborating, regardless of the need. If comms in one country are down, when someone wishes to access documents from another, same applies. That’s an infrastructure availability issue.

    The online world isn’t just about collaboration, in many of the apps, it’s about delivering what the end user needs – 80% of the time. It’s about service. The online folk have no choice but to deliver 24×7 availability to earn their corn.

    But above all, they’re about driving out process cost and driving in process efficiency. Anyone want to argue the goodness in that?

    Share
  7. To Jason’s argument, it’s a big question-mark whether real-time content collaboration is a widespread need. Typically, each user’s piece of a project doesn’t overlap much with those of their collaborators, so people don’t edit docs together a lot. If it was a serious need, wouldn’t microsoft have met it years ago?

    The issue of offline-online integration as well as service-to-service integration is key. Desktop apps can migrate to the web, but web apps can also migrate to the desktop (by employing a p2p architecture) which may result in more powerful solutions. For more on that, see the Web 2.5 blog…

    Share
  8. I have to agree with the idea that online office suites don’t need to copy Office, they need to innovate it out of existence.

    Share
  9. I think you have to consider short-term and long-term concerns and contrast with market segment before making general statements regarding adoption and applicability. I expand more here: http://innerdaemon.wordpress.com/2006/08/28/more-on-web-office-suites/

    Share
  10. Web Versions of MS Office is a Tiny Niche…

    Thanks to Tim Appnel, I was directed to a great article by Om Malik: Web Office Vs. Microsoft Office. Here’s the basics: Red Herring says there are at least 17 companies trying to built Web versions of MS Office. Liam…

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post