Gasp! Did Msft actually have the right idea?

It was a more innocent time: a long, long time ago. I still thought I was young, couldn't complete a sentence without trying to work in a pun, and my parents were still asking me questions like, "So how do we turn on the Internet?"

OK, lying a bit about the last one; they'd stopped asking that much earlier.

But about two-ish years ago when someone first told me about a startup called Writely that wasn't half-bad, and everyone couldn't stop talking about the inevitability of the online office suite, I'd heard an interview with a Microsoft Product Manager, who was rolling out a
collaboration suite for Office products (which after all of Msft's branding fits and feature roll-backs is now called: Office Live Small Business and has fewer-even-than-promised features) . He maintained (I paraphrase from memory now), "We don't think there's much value in an online office suite. We believe that people want to collaborate online and share docs, but want the richness and power of offline tools." My reaction was, "tsk, tsk...these guys don't get it." I hadn't thought the issue through really, but thats what I'd believed every young-ish techie was supposed to be thinking.

Anyway, fast-forward two years later. For the last month, I've been using Google Docs ..a lot! Now, Docs is neat and all..., but no one seriously believes it has anywhere close to feature-parity on functionality with Microsoft Office products. The argument is, bascially: "Look, its good enough! And now you can share/publish so much more easily!!! And it's cheap(er)...or fr
ee too."

True, its good enough most of the time, maybe for most users. But damn it, some of the time for some users (namely me) it isn't!

As I tried to explore some spreadsheets functionality, I couldn't help thinking: "what we really need is a plug-in to make Word docs easily share-able and possible to collaborate on."

Umm...isn't that exactly what the MSFT dude was saying? Two years earlier? To much
blogger/general/my scorn? Could he actually have had a point (beyond that wall of FUD, of course)?

In fact, isn't that what these guys (Zoho) already do? Apparently pretty well?

BTW, you've got to admire how they're rolling out an Offline document editor using Gears before Google.

Comments

Andrew said…
Nice post, thanks.

I love asking people about the competition.

When I was interviewing with Motorola in SPRING 2006, I asked a strategy director, "Aren't you afraid of a phone from Apple? As phone components commoditize, it seems to fall in their strike zone."

He said, "Not really... Phones are not that easy to make."

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