February 16, 2006
@ 06:03 PM

Jason Fried of 37 Signals has a post critical of Office Live entitled Microsoft Office Live is "web based" where he writes

Office Live, Microsoft’s entry into the web-based office application space, went beta today.

Check out some of the system requirements for certain features of this “web-based” service:

  • To use the Edit in Datasheet feature within the Business Applications and Shared Sites areas requires Microsoft Office 2003.
  • To export to Business Contact Manager requires Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office XP, or Microsoft Office 2000.
  • To import contacts from Microsoft Office Outlook requires Microsoft Office 2003 or Microsoft Office XP.
  • To link contacts to Microsoft Office Outlook requires Microsoft Office 2003.

And of course you must use IE. 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.

A number of comments in response to the blog post have pointed out that it is misleading since it implies that Office Live requires Microsoft Office when in truth most of the features mentioned are related to importing and exporting data to and from Microsoft Office products like Outlook. Since the target audience for Office Live is the same as that for the majority of the products of 37 Signals it is unsurprising that they are so hostile to the service.

However this isn't to say that there isn't some valid criticism here. Jason is right that Internet Explorer is required to use Office Live. I also had an issue with this especially since in Windows Live we have an explicit goal that Internet Explorer and Firefox users should get an equivalent user experience. When I talked to the Office Live folks about this they pointed out to me that although Internet Explorer is required to create a site using the service, the websites created with it (such as http://daresofficelivesite.com) work fine in all major Web browsers. This is a good step but they know they can do better.

As it is with all feature requests in product development, the best way to get Firefox support to show up in Office Live is for users demand it. That's what happened with Windows Live and I'm sure the same will end up happening for  Office Live. I'm sure the question won't be if but rather when it shows up.