I’ve followed the rise of Web Office applications like Google Apps, Zoho, Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps, and others for sometime now. As a long time Microsoft Office user (from my day gig as a technical writer) and a writer who has written about Office suites for a while, I found the potential of web office applications to be very interesting.
When Microsoft finally launched Office 2010 Web Apps, I started to see headlines about the upcoming “arms race” and various allusions to battles and fistfights between the major vendors of Web Office suites. This made me wonder, “What is the Web Office battle isn’t even a battle afterall?”
While Google is chocking up some interesting customer wins, the remaining preponderance of Microsoft Office documents residing on the hard drives, network servers, and storage area networks of organizations large and small say that Microsoft Office isn’t going to go away tomorrow.
As a user, I still can’t see myself writing and publishing a complex technical document solely using a web office suite. Will the day come when I can? Sure. It’s just not today. I’ve also yet to see any realistic picture of the support costs of turning off Microsoft Office and migrating to let’s say Google Apps. Office applications can play a larger role in the day-to-day workflow of the average knowledge worker than many implementation teams expect. Changing up Office applications has potential impacts – like it or not – that play into the rollout of Office applications whether they be in the cloud or on the desktop.
My experience contributing to Microsoft Office books as a writer and technical reviewer then writing about Office related topics for print and online publications has given me another perspective entirely on the whole offline and online Office productivity suite world. I can sum it as something a former colleague once said to me when he found out I wrote for publications, “Sometimes the worst thing a non-technical executive can read is a 1,000 word article in a tech magazine.” The coverage of web office applications certainly plays into his assertion because too often the articles are about Microsoft Office or Google hating to get page views versus what happens down with the end users during a migration or implementation.
Office 2010 Web Apps fits more into my vision of a web office because I still see a future where a web office complements Microsoft Office on the desktop. It is going to be interesting to see how the first mid to large customers deploying Office 2010 and Office 2010 Web Apps and if it gains real traction in the market.
The death of Google Wave also could raise questions about the level of real committment that web office and collaboration tool vendors have to the enterprise. Remember, the enterprise has long been home to Microsoft Office and SharePoint with no doubts.
Lastly, there are the smaller players the smaller players – those sending out press releases touting themselves as Google Apps killers, arms dealers, and similar analogies – to either become acquisition bait or go away.
Is the Web Office Battle even a slap fight?