Jeremy Epling responds to my recent post entitled Office Live: Evolve or Die with some disagreement. In his post Web Versions of Office Apps, Jeremy writes

In his post Office Live: Evolve or Die Dare Obasanjo a writes

I can understand the Office guys aren’t keen on building Web-based versions of their flagship apps but they are going to have get over it. They will eventually have to do it. The only question is whether they will lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.

I agree and disagree with Dare on this one. I agree because I think OWA should have been built and has a 2 compelling reasons to be Web based.

  1. Our increasing mobile population needs quick and easy anywhere access to communication. This is satisfied by a Web based app because a PC only needs a Web browser to “open” you mail app.
  2. Email is already stored on a server.

I disagree with Dare because of the two OWA advantages I listed above don’t equally apply to the other Office apps.

I don’t think anywhere access to document creation/editing is one of Office’s customer’s biggest pain points. Since it is not a major pain point it does not warrant investment because the cost of replicating all the Office flag ships apps as AJAX Web apps is too high.

There's a lot to disagree with in Jeremy's short post. In the comments to my original post, Jeremy argued that VPN software makes needing AJAX web apps redundant. However it seems he has conceded that this isn't true with the existence of Outlook Web Access. Considering that our increasingly mobile customers can use the main Outlook client either through their VPN or even with straight HTTP/HTTPS using the RPC over HTTP feature of Exchange, it is telling that many instead choose to use OWA.

Let's ignore that contradiction and just stick strictly to the rules Jeremy provides for deciding that OWA is worth doing but Web-based versions of Excel or Word are not. Jeremy's first point is that increasingly mobile users need access to their communications tools. I agree. However I also believe that people need 'anywhere' access to their business documents as well. As a program manager, most of my output is product specifications and email (sad but true). I don't see why I need 'anywhere' access to the latter but not the former. Jeremy's second point is that corporate email is already stored on a server. First of all, in my scenarios our team's documents are stored on a Sharepoint server. Secondly, even if all my documents were on my local machine, that doesn't change the fact that ideally I should be able to access them from another machine without needing VPN's and the same version of Office on the machine I'm on. In fact, provides exactly this 'anywhere' access to digital media on my PC and it works great. Why couldn't this notion be extended to my presentations, spreadsheets and documents as well? 

Somebody is eventually going to solve this problem. As an b0rg employee, I hope its Microsoft. However if we keep resisting the rising tide that is the Web maybe it'll be or even Google that will eat our lunch in this space.