Was Microsoft's Office 2010 worth killing Clippy?
cash cow cloud app
Microsoft Office earned $4.2 billion revenue in the first three months of 2010, only a little behind the Windows client at $4.4 billion, according to the company's most recent earnings release.
The figures show the suite remains deeply embedded in the business world, despite the availability of free or much cheaper alternatives that perform many of the same functions.
Microsoft is hoping to keep the train on the rails with Office 2010 and its server companion, SharePoint 2010, both formally launched today. I've already reviewed the suite (here and here), and little has changed since the beta and release candidate.
The real question is this: has Microsoft done enough with Office 2010 to maintain its cash-cow business against three major competitors: Google Docs, OpenOffice and, well, Microsoft itself.
First, Microsoft. There's little wrong with Office 2003, the last version to sport traditional menus as opposed to the chunky ribbon introduced in Office 2007. The ribbon does have advantages, making buried features more visible, but it also consumes more screen space (especially not good on a netbook), and it increases upgrade friction. Toolbar customization is another sore point: the drag-and-drop Customize dialog in Office 2003 and earlier is better than the ugly Customize Ribbon dialog in Office 2010.
How we hated you, Clippy
With each new release, Microsoft adds countless new features it says make us all more productive. But how many new features actually matter? While researching this article and looking at Office 2010, I ran up Office 95 - the first complete 32-bit version. It's an advanced product for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations - and it launched fifteen years ago.
Much of the progress since Office 95 has been about refinement and ease of use, rather than functionality. Not all those efforts have been successful, and the history of Office is littered with new features, hyped as breakthroughs at the time, which have faded from view thanks to disuse or failure. We've had Office Binder, the Tip Wizard, Clippy the Office Assistant, Adaptive Menus, Smart Tags, and in Access, Data Access Pages, and Access Data Projects.
Office has also added new applications over the years. Outlook is the most used Office component according to Microsoft, despite its bewildering user interface. If Exchange is the email server, nothing else will do. OneNote is a nice extra, especially on a Tablet PC, and it's substantially improved in Office 2010 with multi-authoring and notes that link to other applications. InfoPath is useful for corporate forms, though it has little to do with creating and managing documents, which is the primary purpose of Office.
Next page: When I'm 64
Are "lock-ins and document format changes/obfuscation" honestly put forth as "competing with free?" It seems to me that this is best classified as "desperately preventing competition." Unless my grasp of the English language fails me, "competition" would enable a) better price, b) better features, or c) increased convenience compared to other offering similar products.
It seems that Microsoft is not really doing any of these things, but rather is leveraging it’s existing near-monopolies in various areas in a combined fashion in order to maintain it’s near-monopolies in those same various areas. I suppose looked at through the right filers, the cross integration could be viewed as “increased convenience,” but I personally think that’s stretching it a little. The reason I make that statement has to do with changes like the Ribbon bar. The Ribbon bar could well be viewed as an “increased convenience” feature, if only the original features has remained an option. Instead, by making it a mandatory feature, they are locking new users into by getting them familiar with their interface in the hopes that they will then reject more traditional ones. For that matter, cross integration would things like Sharepoint could be viewed as competitive, if only others were even able to compete. Where are the APIs allowing the construction of a Sharepoint-like product by competitors?
I realise that antitrust, monopolies and competition are touchy areas, (especially amongst USians,) however I just can’t see Microsoft’s perpetual “mandatory changes” as anything other than lock in. If you upgrade one application to get a feature you want, you will be forced into upgrading them all; an expensive proposition to say the least.
Anyway, that was ranty and probably incoherent: I just wanted to bitch about the idea that Microsoft “competes with free.” They don’t. I’m going to get coffee now…hey, thanks for my coat…
... will be the main reason I won't upgrade to anything after Office2003. I hate that stupid interface, and I'm not alone in that one. If Office 2010 doesn't offer a magic "old style" mode, I'm not buying it either.
Open Office kicks the pants off the MSOffice
Open Office kicks the pants off the MSOffice, having used both I have been delighted by the ability of OO to write 200 page technical reports on, something MSOffice (2000 and 1997 versions) more often than not cached and corrupted my report files....crap. Another bonus OO maintains a wonderful stability of formats across the versions, ODF compliance makes it a delight for document archival....also I have used Google Docs for lightweight work and its is really good for collaboration, it show great promise, much better than Sharepoint.