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, Orb.com 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 SalesForce.com or even Google that will eat our lunch in this space.


 

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 7:49:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm not sure "porting" office to the web is necessarily a great idea but I can see some real value in web-based content creation services.

If all you need is remote access to your documents, simple sunching to remote storage should be adequate.

But think about collaboration. One the nifty services that unfortunately barely saw the light of day (due to being snapped up by Microsoft) was E-quill. It provided a simple way for any number of people to mark up, post-it, highlight, etc. a web page. Perfect for reviewing specs, agreements, web pages, etc. with several people. You could easily envision the doc being a PowerPoint, Word Doc or spreadsheet.

Let's hope Microsoft does something with E-quill or someone else comes along and re-develops it.
pwb
Wednesday, November 23, 2005 10:40:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
If you have remote email, you need remote doc access, at least in the enterprise. And web access -when did offline email reading last work?

For evidence, follow the link
http://www.hpl.hp.com/techreports/2000/HPL-2000-21.html to see a study I did way back in '99 on this topic. People in the enterprise dont read email, they use outlook as a launcher for word, ppt and web sessions.
Friday, December 2, 2005 4:37:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Do more people use OWA than HTTPS Outlook because the forner just works and the latter defeats the sysadmin by two falls and a submission?

I find OWA way inferior to Outlook proper and it's what I settle for rather than choose - it's a godsend compared to no access, but it's forced on me by intermittent connections or my own bad planning. Do I trust it? In practice more than in theory.

As a writer, I feel unhappy at trusting precious words to an intermittent connection. An online Word has to do things better than a local Word to make me interested. It has to reliably store and transmit and update my documents. It has to be better than VPN or FolderShare or Groove or all the other alternatives or I'm going to think 'cut-down ad-sponsored irritation on the way'. I can't think what the creative inspiring solution would be - something that pulls my documents securely into the cloud, exposes them to any device I authenticate from a phone to a TV, shares them with friends and still is as responsive and data-careful as Word? - but it has to be something worth doing, not just done for the sake of it. The light at the end of the tunnel is sometimes an oncoming bandwagon...
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