Earlier this week Microsoft announced the beta release of Office Live Workspaces which enables you to collaborate on documents via the Internet, something that companies like Zoho and Google Docs have of course been doing for a while. The big difference with this announcement is that they weren’t announcing an online version of Office, as to access Workspaces you still use your desktop version of office. This has had several online commentators up in arms with Erick Schonfeld over at Techcrunch saying
If Google and a dozen startups can create online productivity apps that let you edit in the browser, so can Microsoft. And those potential competitors are not standing still. Every month Microsoft waits to fully wade into the Webtop waters, is another month that Google, Zoho, Adobe, Glide, and the rest have to close the gap with Office on the desktop
However I’m not sure I agree with this sentiment. Aside from the problems of running a complex thing such as a large spreadsheet or powerpoint within the confines of a single thread in a sandboxed browser environment corporate customers are tied into the whole Office on the desktop metaphor and getting them to change workflow is exceptionally difficult. We have seen it first hand here with implementations of our Analytics product due to that fact that the marketing people who are the prime target were used to working in powerpoint and they needed to learn a whole new way of working. So I actually applaud Microsoft on this, as to me its a best of both worlds. You don’t have to change your way of working, but you get all the collaborative features of an Internet based product. Nice one! Oh and for details on how we plan to deal with this workflow problem ourselves, check out the development blog and the ideas for ATK and Powerpoint integration.