What not to expect

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2008-03-27 Print this article Print


What likely will not be in the Albany stack, analysts said, is Microsoft Office, the hugely successful office productivity suite that includes the Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook applications used by enterprises around the globe.

"They do want to do something that is not completely separate from Office, but not the functional equivalent to Office online," said RedMonk analyst James Governor. "Microsoft has written its Office code to run on a local machine. ... to offer [better] run times would be biting off an interesting engineering project. How do you make it collaborative and offer the run times people expect ... and at least try to replicate the same user interface metaphor[?] So it's partly an engineering challenge, but it's also a business challenge. Microsoft doesn't want to cannibalize its own [Office] offering."

What Microsoft does want to do is compete more effectively with Google-and not where one might think, according to Helm. While Office is an immensely successful office productivity suite in multiple areas, Microsoft's main goal in fending off Google is to protect its place in the enterprise.

"The No. 1 imperative [for Microsoft] with Google is keeping Google out of the enterprise," Helm said. "So Microsoft has to meet Google halfway. They introduced Hotmail free for universities. They don't want Google to take off there. But when it comes to consumers it's not as clear that Microsoft needs to fight 'mano-a-mano' with Google."

While much has been written about Google Docs' effectiveness as a free office productivity suite, Helm said Microsoft has one weapon that Google doesn't: the OEM channel that ships Microsoft's office productivity software installed on millions of computers.

"That's a lot less powerful tool than it was 10 years ago, but it's still a pretty incredible weapon," Helm said. "So it turns out that Microsoft might not have to turn to online applications. They might just have to make their PC bundled apps more attractive."

Project Albany, if it indeed turns out to be an online productivity suite aimed at consumers and small businesses, would not be Microsoft's first attempt to beat Google Docs. Three or four years ago the company considered developing a project called XDocs, but that project was killed because of the threat to Office, according to Helm. "There was no internal political backing to have this project see the light of day," he said.


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