So today is launch day, the day that Microsoft Office 2010 is released out and the world gets to see what a Microsoft take on a Software plus Services fuelled office productivity suite looks like. The world has already been inundated with reflections on the product itself so it seemed a good time to hold a mirror up and look at what ther vendors, potentially impacted by the launch, are feeling right now.
First up Google, who have (at least to a certain extent) had the majority of the attention in this space to date. Google’s approach is, somewhat interestingly, that organizations should mix and match MS and Google products, as SeattlePI reported:
Maybe businesses will opt to buy a handful of Office 2010 upgrade licenses instead of an entire office’s worth, said Chris Vander Mey, a senior product manager at Google’s Seattle location in Fremont. For the rest of the office, those workers who don’t need all the features inside Office, why not skip Microsoft’s complicated Enterprise Agreements and instead add Google Docs to their current Office 2007 or Office 2003 environments?
Which is very much in line with their “more of what you need, and less of what you don’t” approach. As CEO Eric Schmidt said:
What we’re doing is adding appropriate functions to Google Docs from the bottom, we’re adding the common cases. We’re not trying to build a full copy of Microsoft Office. I don’t think that’s good use of our time. What will happen is a corporation will end up having both around for awhile.
In case you are considering upgrading to Office 2010, you might want to give
online alternatives a try. Our friends at Google listed several reasons
not to upgrade to Office 2010 .
Then rather than discussing Microsoft Office, they turn their attention to
their vision of future office apps:
We see a new phase in the evolution of Office suites – Componentization …
The next step: Office apps becoming components within other apps…. Office suites
traditionally have been standalone applications that are independent from other
business applications. While there is clearly value in this, we think their
usage and their impact on user’s productivity will be significantly higher when
they are contextually integrated within other business applications and
They cite integration within their own numerous applications, as well as
with Central Desktop – coming up next here.
Next I spoke to CEO of CentralDesktop, Isaac Garcia for his take on what this all means. Remember that, as I covered last week, CentralDesktop have just rolled out an offering that essentially given Microsoft Office 2010 functionality to 2003 and 2007 users. Garcia stated that:
We think that it is presumptuous for Microsoft to expect SMBs to upgrade all of their Office licenses in a down economy, We believe they will look for lower cost alternatives and CentralDesktop’s SaaS offering simplifies the process without a hidden agenda
Which is all probably justified but perhaps a little tainted. However Garcia raised some really good points about just how easy it’s going to be for Microsoft Office users to get all that exciting collaborative-y functionality:
Microsoft is selling the entire stack (SharePoint, SQLserver etc) , not just an Office upgrade. There are other hidden costs in addition to upgrading to office 2010. In order to access all of the “social and collaborative features” users need to either upgrade to sharepoint or use one of their other web services.
On Microsoft’s Cloud Strategy Levie was less dismissive than one would have expected:
Beginning with the launch of Office 2010, Microsoft will demonstrate whether or not it is truly “betting the company on cloud computing.” This is Microsoft’s opportunity to transform itself into a more innovative, open and user-focused company, but it faces some significant hurdles: it will need to design software specifically for the web, and not just retrofit old single-tenant software. It will need to meaningfully engage developers with an open platform – developers that are wary after failed projects like the Live Mesh Developer program. It will need to embrace a new business model that will often force it to compete directly against its massive ecosystem of partners, consultants and resellers, and it will need to address confusion in the market around its many overlapping product lines (Office Online, Live Folders, SkyDrive, Docs.com, etc.), and tell a coherent story to users and developers about its vision for the cloud.
Even when asked to comment about SharePoint 2010 – the very product that box.net has ridiculed previously in countless marketing campaigns – Levie is moderate in his criticism:
SharePoint 2010 will no doubt be a major improvement over its predecessor, but the key thing to watch is usability. Microsoft has thrown a bunch of social features onto its SharePoint platform, and we’ll see whether these translate into increased productivity and enhanced collaboration, or if they’re more in line with a kitchen sink, ad hoc approach. We get a lot of frustrated SharePoint users who come to Box because they need to share and collaborate with parties outside their organization – something that will continue to be a fundamental issue with SharePoint 2010.
Finally I quizzed CEO of SlideRocket, Chuck Dietrich. With a history that includes a stint at salesforce, along with his current position heading an organization that’s squarely competing with PowerPoint, I was interested to hear his perspective. I wasn’t let down.
Microsoft’s revenue is dependent on selling old-school packaged software, continual upgrades and hardware. Ever since Salesforce.com started the SaaS revolution, Microsoft has been under pressure to address the software as a service or ‘cloud’ model. But the truth is, Microsoft cannot embrace the cloud, because a subscription-based software delivery model would cannibalize their short term revenues. Office 2010 is another attempt to sell upgrades and hardware, not an innovative web based application. Thankfully, there are an array of cloud applications now available that, for the first time in decades, threaten the dominance of Microsoft Office — from what Google has done for email and documents, to what SlideRocket is doing for presentations and dozens of others. With so many inexpensive, robust cloud apps to choose from, companies don’t need packaged software suites like Office anymore. Now they get choice and innovation.
Ouch – that’s fighting talk. of course it needs to be tempered with the knowledge that a significant proportion of earth’s population use Microsoft office, and even if only a fraction of those users pay for the product, that’s more people than have ever heard of all the services I’ve talked to in this post put together. Having said that however, it is clear that we’re in the midst of a sea change in terms of how people work, the vendors I’ve talked to may be (to a greater or lesser extent) mere fledglings, but they’re fledglings who are moving fast, if the incumbents don’t watch out, they might just get eaten by those nipping at their heels.