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Posted
30 January 2007 @ 11am

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Office – Online or Off?

Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web is talking about how Microsoft can respond to the challenge of online office suites today:

In 2007 we expect to see good progress in the adoption of Internet-based productivity applications, such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Zimbra. At this point, the ‘Web Office’ space is in its infancy – but the market is maturing quickly. Already online suites such as those offered by Thinkfree and Zoho are starting to get some traction as cheaper, hosted alternatives to the Microsoft Office desktop suite of products. Online office services are usually free, you can easily share and edit with others, and you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection. But still, people will have to get over security and server concerns; as well as interface and usability differences.

I still have trouble buying into that. I have tried out every online suite available and use Google Office’s word processor to preview documents daily, but I can’t see myself using one just yet. The real problems for the market are not specific to Microsoft, Google or Zoho. The real problem is a technical one. While we live in an always-on world, we still find ourselves off line too often for a web suite to work. Connections go down, planes take off, and work has to go on. Until we see a way of using these apps offline, I don’t see a lot of adoption here. Once that problem is solved though with some local caching mechanism, I can see this market heat up quickly and Microsoft jumping in.

Just as a bonus: My pet grieve with online office suites – no footnotes. Not a single online word processor gives me footnotes – and I can’t live without them.

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