This is one of those posts I started before I went on my honeymoon and never got around to finishing. There are lots of interesting things happening in the world of office productivity software these days. Here are four announcements from the past three weeks that show just how things are heating up in this space, especially if you agree with Steve Gillmor that Office is Dead *(see footnote).

From the article Google Expands Online Software Suite 

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — Google Inc. has expanded its online suite of office software to include a business presentation tool similar to Microsoft Corp.'s popular PowerPoint, adding the latest twist in a high-stakes rivalry.

Google's software suite already included word processing, spreadsheet and calendar management programs. Microsoft has been reaping huge profits from similar applications for years.

Unlike Google's applications, Microsoft's programs are usually installed directly on the hard drives of computers.

From the article I.B.M. to Offer Office Software Free in Challenge to Microsoft’s Line

I.B.M. plans to mount its most ambitious challenge in years to Microsoft’s dominance of personal computer software, by offering free programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

Steven A. Mills, senior vice president of I.B.M.’s software group, said the programs promote an open-source document format.

The company is announcing the desktop software, called I.B.M. Lotus Symphony, at an event today in New York. The programs will be available as free downloads from the I.B.M. Web site.

From the blog post Yahoo scoops up Zimbra for $350 million

Yahoo has been on an acquisition binge late, but mostly to expand its advertising business. Now Yahoo is buying its way deeper into the applications business with the acquisition of Zimbra for a reported $350 million, mostly in cash. Zimbra developed a leading edge, Web 2.0 open source messaging and collaboration software suite, with email, calendar, document processing and a spreadsheet.

and finally, from the press release Microsoft Charts Its Software Services Strategy and Road Map for Businesses

 Today Microsoft also unveiled the following:

  • Microsoft® Office Live Workspace, a new Web-based feature of Microsoft Office that lets people access their documents online and share their work with others

Office Live Workspace: New Web Functionality for Microsoft Office

Office Live Workspace is among the first entries in the new wave of online services. Available at no charge, Office Live Workspace lets people do the following:

  • Access documents anywhere. Users can organize documents and projects for work, school and home online, and work on them from almost any computer even one not connected to the company or school network. They can save more than 1,000 Microsoft Office documents to one place online and access them via the Web.
  • Share with others. Users can work collaboratively on a project with others in a password-protected, invitation-only online workspace, helping to eliminate version-control challenges when e-mailing drafts to multiple people. Collaborators who don’t have a desktop version of Microsoft Office software can still view and comment on the document in a browser.

As you can see one of these four announcements is not like the others. Since it isn’t fair to pick on the stupid, I’ll let you figure out which company is jumping on a dying paradigm while the rest of the industry has already moved towards the next generation.  The Web is no longer the future of computing, computing is now about the Web.

* I do. Disconnected desktop software needs to go the way of the dodo.

Now playing: Prince - Sign 'O' the Times


Tuesday, October 2, 2007 6:06:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Is Office Live Workspaces leading edge? Truly no it's not. Is there, however, a disconnect between the leading edge and the vast majority of (especially very) small and medium businesses, where Windows 2000 and Office XP are still prevalent? If those businesses balk at moving even to XP and Office 2k3, what makes you think they will jump into the "hey here's all my data" fray?
And what happens when internet access is down? Working at MS perhaps you don't feel the pain of small business and small ISPs. And again, what are those ISPs going to say when Joe small business changes from checking email and the web site, to moving daily business data (every edit, every document) across an internet connection?
I'm not arguing for hitching posts in front of every store, here. But I think Microsoft is smart to appeal to a vast majority of Office users, offering them an opportunity, while not completely abandoning their current systems, to make a move toward online collaboration and backup. When the online system is proven and stable, and the ISP infrastructure has allowed for it, expanding to an online version of Works, connected to a Software + Services office system, might be a pretty good position to be in.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007 6:52:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Dare, soon you'll be one of the morons who run Microsoft. Of course you'll be tortured for a few years beforehand. You should quit.
dusty rhodes
Tuesday, October 2, 2007 7:59:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Kip, isn't IBM the "stupid" one here? If there big announcement is a response to *desktop* Office, that seems old-school coming out of the gate. Microsoft has a cash cow in Office, but hopefully they are realizing it needs to start providing online capabilities to complement it soon. Or maybe it's just Dare who does... I dunno. Then again, maybe I'm stupid here.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 12:29:04 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think IBM is the stupid one too.

In any event, I'm currently trying to get into the Beta for Office Live because it looks like it'll work well with my organization (geographically scattered; multi-platform; workflows designed around Word/word processors).
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 5:45:05 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Ummm, right. Chalk it up to a defense mechanism built up against anti MS sentiments. However, rather than being stupid, I think that the IBM offering is an apples and oranges comparison. Not sure that IBM is saying that desktops are the way of the future, or that they won't be offering connected solutions, only that proprietary desktop software is a thing of the past. And both MS and IBM, it seems to me, are correct in believing that desktop office software is here, if not to stay, then at least for a long time.
I've been reading lots in the past few days about MS missing the boat by tying web storage goodness to its desktop software dinosaur, and in a lot of ways I disagree with that sentiment. Yes collaboration and access from anywhere need to happen, but a rich desktop client just makes a lot of sense.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 10:44:35 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
> Office Live Workspace lets people do the following:
> Access documents anywhere

I'm sitting on top of a mountain with my laptop without internet access... how do I access these documents?

(Paying ££££££££ for mobile data access is not acceptable for a minor update to /my/ document.)

With local software, this is not a problem.

Whether online/SaaS or local apps is better, really depends on your assumptions about current state.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 11:15:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
>> I'm sitting on top of a mountain with my laptop without internet access... how do I access these documents?

...must resist urge to talk Office...

Groove Baby!

It's great at offline document management and mountain-top collaboration (or hotels with crappy internet for that matter)
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 7:01:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The old "network computer" delusion rears its ugly head again...
Thursday, October 4, 2007 10:33:19 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Alistair (MSFT):
> It's great at offline document management and mountain-top collaboration (or hotels with crappy internet for that matter)

Missed point error.
These are my documents, not something I'm building with someone else... and anyway Groove != Office Live.
If the document is already a local .docx I don't need anything beyond the locally installed software.
With anything online I need some network... and if that network is non-existent (or too expensive) then I have to work locally.
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