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MS Office versus the browser

What's the centre of your desktop?

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Reg Reader Workshop The death of the PC and an end to the running of applications on the desktop has been predicted constantly for at least 10 years.

From Larry Ellison's high profile advocacy of the Network Computer in the 90s, through modern day web delivery methods, to the latest software as a service (SaaS) plays, there has always been something about to make the Wintel, Mac, or (more recently) Lintel box on our desk obsolete. It hasn't happened yet, though, and there is little indication that it will do in the near future.

But things are definitely changing. The traditional client/server approach to implementing business applications, for example, has indeed gone out of fashion, in favour of browser based delivery or access through some of the richer web delivery techniques that are emerging around the Web 2.0 concept.

Some applications refuse to budge from the desktop, however, and one of these is Microsoft Office. OK, sometimes it is a virtual desktop in a Citrix environment, but however it is made available, and despite the challenges from open source and Web 2.0 alternatives, Word, Excel and PowerPoint are still the de facto standards in business for their respective functions, and Outlook remains pervasive as an email client.

Whatever your opinions of how right or wrong this might be, the upshot is that organisations are starting to think about Office as a vehicle for broader information delivery and application access, basically by embedding integration and application components in the Office environment itself. The recently launched Office System 2007 is further encouraging this approach as Microsoft positions its office suite as a "platform", as well as a collection of applications.

Some may dismiss this as just Microsoft spin, but it's an idea that many Reg Readers seem to agree with. A few weeks ago, we received over 1,100 responses to a survey on business intelligence, and readers told us that while other options are important, "generic office tools" are the most prominent and fast growing method of delivering information to users. We didn't look at the idea of office suites as a mechanism for accessing transactional systems, but it is interesting to see application vendors large and small working on plug-ins of one kind or another to Office.

Against this background, we thought it would be interesting to look a little more closely at the apps that are central to people's desktops. If you have a minute, we'd therefore really appreciate you completing our little poll below. As usual, we'll report the results back in a few days.

Reader Poll – What's the centre of your desktop

This poll is now closed...

Which of the following office solutions do you personally use at work?

  • OpenOffice
  • StarOffice
  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • Microsoft Office 2003 or earlier
  • Another commercial office suite
  • Online office services (e.g. Google)
  • Other

What would you consider to be the most central application or suite on the desktop you use at work, i.e. the one you return to most frequently throughout the working day?

  • Email, contacts, calendar client
  • Word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tools
  • General office suite, including both of the above
  • Client for a specific business application (e.g. CRM, ERP)
  • Systems development, monitoring or management tools
  • Web browser
  • Other app or combination (please specify)

Which of the following is most commonly used across your organisation (even though you may not necessarily use it yourself)?

  • OpenOffice
  • StarOffice
  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • Microsoft Office 2003 or earlier
  • Another commercial office suite
  • Online office services (e.g. Google)
  • Other

Looking around your organisation in general, what would you say is the most central application on the desktop of most of your PC users?

  • Email, contacts, calendar client
  • Word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tools
  • General office suite, including both of the above
  • Client for a specific business application (e.g. CRM, ERP)
  • Systems development, monitoring or management tools
  • Web browser
  • Other app or combination (please specify)

How would you describe your occupation?

  • IT management
  • IT practitioner
  • Business management
  • Business professional
  • Student
  • Other

How large is your organisation?

  • 5,000 or more employees
  • 250 – 5,000 employees
  • 10 – 250 employees
  • Less than 10 employees

Additional comments

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