Despite co-editorship of this blog, and in an admission that will be anathema to many readers, much of my office productivity work still occurs within Microsoft Office.
Don’t get me wrong, I really want to utilise only cloud based offerings but every time I’ve tried to make the leap I’ve encountered a whole heap of fail.
It may be powerpoint presentations importing sans formatting, sans animation and sans most of the niceties I’ve spent hours putting into them. Or maybe excel files that come through beautifully, but without formulas and cell formatting. Or perhaps word documents that look great, apart from the fact that they look almost entirely different from how they did in word. Or perhaps worst of all – a multi-functional offering like Outlook (as hugely bloated and buggy as it is) – try moving both email, task and calendar functions from Outlook to a cloud solution – good luck.
The mystery to me is why these vendors can’t get compatibility with MS Office right. There has to be some form of incompetence there, because it just isn’t that hard
These aren’t hollow words – years ago Bob was an exec responsible for Borland’s Quattro Pro – ensuring that it was 100% (not 90% or even 99%) comparable with the offerings of the time.
A couple of commenters pointed out the super-detailed post that Joel wrote – I’ve seen it previously – while it’s over my head it makes sense (at least at a conceptual level – like I said I’m not a programmer).
While Bob has the pedigree to state that compatibility shouldn’t be that hard, one can’t help but concur with what Joel says – Both Google and Zoho (and the other on-demand office productivity players) have some awesome brains on deck – if 100% compatible file opening was easy, one assumes they’d have it nailed by now. They don’t however and the bottom line is the difficulties in migrating are the major stumbling block for users.
Bob quote a Larry Dignan post referencing a Bernstein report saying that;
While Google Apps and Open Office from Sun have almost all of the functionality of Microsoft’s Office the conversion of documents is still not 100% effective, although Open Office comes very close indeed. In a recent test Open Office could easily open a Word version of one of our published notes with formatting that was over 98% accurate. Open Office could similarly open one of our financial models written in Excel – over 3Mb, and using a variety of Microsoft functions with iterative calculation. Once again the document opened almost perfectly but a minor change was needed to ensure the model converged properly. Google Docs did less well and could not handle the Excel model but opened our Word note and preserved about 90% of the formatting. Even though these programs are very nearly comparable in functionality and can offer additional functionality in terms of allowing users to simultaneously edit documents – which the client versions of Word and Excel cannot do – we still perceive considerable reluctance on the part of users and IT Departments to use them
It’s a telling fact that it is the 1% outliers cases that limit the success of non MS apps. A sad fact – but a fact nontheless and one seen in all manner of on-demand offerings. From project management to accounting, from office productivity to email – ability to migrate rapidly and easily is a core requirement to lubricate the on-ramp. As Bob states;
…until this problem is fixed, Microsoft will keep dominating. But it isn’t that hard to fix, and once fixed the friction preventing a switch goes down radically.
And then the provocative statement that, I hope, some vendors will consider deeply;
Cloud Vendors, let me know if you need some names from my original Quattro Pro team. They’re still around, still brilliant, and still able to build a product that’s 100% compatible and will get you where you want to go
Please do it – I’ve got a bunch of word, excel and powerpoint files just waiting for someone to help me move them online.
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