Is Microsoft Office obsolete? Joe Wilcox thinks so and he might be right

Joe Wilcox, of betanews, posted an interesting opinion piece on betanews.  In the article, he proclaims that Microsoft Office is obsolete or soon will be.  He writes that ‘cloud services’ and suite commoditization will lessen the value of Office and, eventually, obsolete it.  

When I first saw his tweet and read the article, I thought he was way off base.  But, after some thought, I’m not sure he’s too far off.  I had a nice little exchange with him, via Twitter, about this.  In that exchange, I told him of the various versions we use at home (Home and Student and the Pro version of 2007) and what we use them for as well as which part of Office I like most (OneNote.)  I also said that most companies, mid to large sized, use the suite.  He replied that many startups don’t use it and they, instead, use cloud services like Google apps.

Mr. Wilcox is probably right about startups.  I suspect that cost, more than anything else, is the reason. Google Apps is certainly NOT a valid replacement for Office.  Open Office, as bad as it is, is a more viable alternative to Office, but, sadly, the perception is that the cloud services are better.  I don’t think so, but the perception is there.  That perception, I think, will do more to lessen Office’s value than the actual services will. 

Established companies, especially publicly held companies, will be slow to adopt such services, if at all.  The reasons are many, but control and confidentiality are the biggest reasons.  I know that there are those would argue that Google Apps are safe and secure.  That might be, but the risk to these companies will outweigh the perceived benefits.  Some business sectors, like the health and public utilities sectors will, most likely, never adopt these services due to the endless pit of regulations.  The risk is simply too great.

Individuals, however, are more likely to embrace such services.  I have the pleasure of working with some very bright people in my job. Many of them are under thirty years old.  These people rely, almost entirely, on being connected and don’t mind storing valuable information in the cloud.  They use online services for photos and other things. This generation has been de-sensitized so much that ‘good enough’ will do.  Things like iPod and MP3 in general have un-done much of the quality that took decades to develop.  Through the mid-1990’s, audio gear got better and better while getting cheaper.  Along comes iPod and quality goes down.  And it isn’t so much the actual technology as it is those earbuds.  The earbuds sound ‘good enough’ and it is now acceptable to be ‘good enough.’

I asked a coworker why they liked Google Docs.  They told me it was because they could use it anywhere. When I asked about reliability and missing features, they acknowledged that as a problem, but that is was good enough to use all of the time.  Expectations seemed to have been lessened with the rise of the Internet and certain products from certain companies. 

I fully intend on purchasing Office 2010 Home Edition when it comes out. Among its features are integration with a cloud based service, certainly a plus but not THE reason to buy.  For me, it is the overall presence of the ribbon, PowerPoint’s save to video feature and OneNote.  Nothing I have seen from Google or any other company comes close to Office’s full feature set.  And what I have seen is not ‘good enough’ for me, other than, perhaps, a quick note IF I have the browser open already. But, then, for quick notes, I am more prone to use paper and pen.  So, I have to conclude, that these services are not intended for people like me. It is the next generation that is the target audience.

I am not afraid of change.  I don’t fully embrace every change, but those that make sense I will embrace.  Online office suites, however, do not make much sense right now.  Maybe in a few years they will.  But not right now.  Not to me anyway.

I will continue to use Office, obsolete or not.  Shoot, I still watch Laser Discs on my Pioneer LaserDisc player and use my old Palm Zire 33-two products that cannot be more obsolete.

What do you think?  Is Office a dead end now?  What do you use?

You can read Joe’s article here.

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4 thoughts on “Is Microsoft Office obsolete? Joe Wilcox thinks so and he might be right

  1. I love Google Docs. For anything but the most complex formatting jobs it works perfectly. In fact, since my thesis, I cannot remember the last time I needed anything more than blod, italics and underline in any of my writings – and I write a lot. On the rare occasion I might need some special formatting I use Open Office – why would anyone buy Office at all??

  2. Google Docs, for me, just doesn’t cut it. It just lacks too much and I really don’t want to put any more reliance on Google than I have to. Open Office would be great if the performance was better AND it featured the ribbon and live preview. The live preview alone makes Office 2007 and Office 2010 superior. OneNote-to which there is currently nothing close-seals the deal for me. All of our PC’s have a flavor of Office 2007 installed and when 2010 is available, it will go on at least one machine. I’m not totally sour on Open Office … I suggest it to people who do not want to buy or cannot buy Office. I used it for several years before I bought Office. Actually, for just word processing, ABI Word is terrific. It is small and fast. It lacks many of the features of Word, but it does have more formatting features than Google Docs and you can use it disconnected.

  3. Thanks! I work at a fairly large company and I know there is no way they would allow Google Docs or any other similar service-including the upcoming Microsoft offering with 2010-to be used in place (or in addition to) the PC based suites. Too big a risk. For personal things, it is probably fine, but not for business.

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