Tuesday 23 December 2008

Office Suite lock-in: The same today as it was yesterday

In CIO magazine online, Rich Levin writes that:

"Today there's a bumper crop of worthy Office alternatives... None of this has been missed by Microsoft, which debuted a revamped Office Professional 2007 last year in an effort to clearly differentiate its cash cow from the bulging mass of Office me-toos, and now is promising a new version that's cloud-enabled. But the new Office user experience, "the Ribbon," is likely responsible for driving once-devoted users into the arms of alternatives."

I've always thought the interface changes for Office 2007 was a stroke of genius by Microsoft, but I guess we will never know if this was genuine attempt to improve and innovate, or just pointed-headed marketing strategy to block the copy cats.

Levin goes on to suggest a bunch of word processing/office suite alternatives, which includes the obvious ones like Open Office, Google Docs and Zoho but also:

I also saw today talk of a Windows version of KOffice, but it looks a long way off.

Still, I think the scope of the examples are quite limited. Into this mix I would also add WYSIWYG editors in Web-applications, like Wikis. Not that I would rate them as particularly mature at this stage, but as Sam Lawrence has proposed in the past, the office suite concept itself is stuck in the old siloed productivity paradigm.

And what about outlining and note taking tools like Treepad and Evernote. All offer rich text editing capabilities. Actually, in this area I think Windows Live Writer (a thick-client blog editor) excels beyond any other Web-based text editor I've seen.

All this got me thinking today that even in this world of Web 2.0, compatible file formats just don't seem to be enough. I wonder when will we see a better separation of data from the editing applications we use, so it becomes a question of which tool do you use when and where, rather than which do you use full stop. Even for me, the wiki paradigm is limited because it still requires me to go *there* to work.

How are using Office alternatives to get work done?

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