Monday, January 25, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) No, Joe Wilcox, Microsoft Office is not obsolete

Several people used Google Reader to share a Betanews post by Joe Wilcox. The post, entitled "Microsoft Office is obsolete, or soon will be," argues that Office's price cuts are an indication of the increasing irrelevance of the suite for many people.

Wilcox's post seemingly invites conversation:

I'll ask upfront: Do you really need Microsoft Office on a daily basis? Is Office vital to your work day? Do you use it at home? If you use it at work, how often? If you use it at home or for college, how often? Please respond in comments.

Well, I definitely had a view on this subject, so I went down to the comments, only to be greeted by this:

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No Facebook Connect, no other method to log in. If anything's obsolete, it's Betanews' login system.

So I'll use my blog to point out one issue that I have with Wilcox's assertion.

Microsoft Office will continue to survive for some time, and it will survive for the same reason that Internet Explorer 6 continues to survive - namely, corporate IT standards that mandate the use of Microsoft Office. I've talked about the IE6 issue ad nauseum in the past, including corporate standards and developer support, and some of the same issues apply with regards to Microsoft Office.

For those who don't know what I do during the day, I'm a proposal writer. Before that, I was a product manager. Both jobs involved the production of documents, and both jobs required that my document production software be integrated with other software packages - the current one requires integration with a software package that stores a database of proposal responses, while the old job required integration with a software package that tagged marketing requirements. In both cases, the approved document production software to use with these packages was Microsoft Word.

Or, to be more precise, Microsoft Word 2003.

I spend so much time in Microsoft Word 2003 at work that when I get home, I get confused half the time when I get into Microsoft Word 2007. And we have THAT package at home because my daughter's former school required her to use Microsoft Publisher in one of her classes. My daughter has since changed schools and changed computers (she's now an Apple fangirl), and I could certainly do without Microsoft Office at home.

But work is another matter. While Word is the only portion of the Office package that I am required to use (unless, as I stated in 2008, you are willing to pay my salary), I do make heavy use of Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. PowerPoint was in very high use during my product management years, as I was giving presentations at our own conferences, the International Association of Identification conference, and the Oracle OpenWorld unconference.

Now I could have used another presentation software package in those instances, but let's look at corporate needs again. Assume for the moment that the corporation needs to outfit particular workers with a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software package, and that all workers need electronic mail access. The IT people could go out and buy (or obtain freeware for) four separate packages, or they could buy all four packages in a single swoop. If you're in purchasing, or if you're charged with managing software assets, which option is more attractive to you?

Now if I ever get around to buying myself a netbook for personal use, I am strongly considering getting OpenOffice for my word processing, calculating, presenting, and related needs. But such a suggestion in a corporate environment wouldn't have flown in 2005:

I have been asked to submit a budget proposal to upgrade my companies MS Office desktops to Office 2003 (about 100 licenses).
I am reticent to do this without suggesting OpenOffice (which I have used for ages).
When suggesting it to the managing director, I got the answer that OpenOffice was only used by Techies at home and was not a serious contendor to MS Office.

I know this not to be true, but would like some data proving it. Is there any available??

Back in 2005, the answers to this question included references to the Open Office forum, and a story about Munich's migration to Linux and OpenOffice. However, these were NOT the kinds of stories that were going to impress the managing director.

Things have gotten better since 2005, but if you want to look at enterprise deployments of OpenOffice, one of your alternatives is to go to Open Office Technology to get OpenOffice-Enterprise.

OpenOffice-Enterprise is an enterprise management solution for the office suite.

OpenOffice-Enterprise is the fastest, easiest, and most reliable way to deploy and manage OpenOffice in an enterprise environment.

OpenOffice-Enterprise automatically applies an enterprise-friendly configuration to OpenOffice that includes disabling the Registration Wizard, disabling Auto Updates, and disabling the OpenOffice Improvement Program (usage tracking).

In addition to these standard settings, OpenOffice-Enterprise allows thousands of additional settings to be managed using standard Windows tools, including Group Policy, administrative template (.adm) files, Active Directory and the Microsoft Management Console. Examples of settings that can be managed with OpenOffice-Enterprise include the default file formats, document template locations, application access, macro security, and thousands of other settings.

Finally, OpenOffice-Enterprise makes upgrades fast and trouble-free. When a new version of OpenOffice is released, you can simply install it as-is and OpenOffice-Enterprise will apply all of your existing administrative settings to the new version.

And if you want to learn about the people who run Open Office Technology...well, they never get around to specifying that information on their web page. At this point, your managing director will argue that we know who runs Microsoft - who are these OpenOffice-Enterprise guys?

Or, paraphrasing something from a previous generation, you can't go wrong by buying Microsoft.

So I wouldn't write off Microsoft Office just yet.
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