Just Make It Work

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-11-11 Print this article Print

Yes, I still see a place for the current stand-alone Office applications. But these islands of computing should be reserved for what we used to call "power users" and not inflicted upon the vast majority of workers who never use the vast majority of Office features. I know what Microsoft is going to say: Most people use 80 percent of the same features all the time, but the other 20 percent (or whatever) is highly individualized making it impossible just to shed a bunch of features from the core product and calling it a day.
This is where I believe that famed Microsoft ingenuity comes into play: Just make it work. My preference is to lop off features that users really could do without and use a setup wizard to enable the others either at installation or on demand.
This new Office-less Office also needs more helpful proofing tools and an easy way for companies to create style guides and templates so everyones documents look the same (or have a good reason for breaking format). You can do this today, but its not easy. Id also like to see an improved grammar checker (regular readers understand why) and more desktop publishing capabilities, similar to what Microsoft Publisher does today. I am not sure Publisher should go away, but there needs to be a tighter linkage between it and whatever Office 12 turns out to be. Office 12 needs to focus on workgroup productivity, perhaps bringing back the personal Web server so users can have a lightweight copy of Sharepoint server on their machines to support shared documents and workspaces. Maybe Microsoft can turn its investment in Groove Networks into something interesting. If Microsoft expects many Office users to upgrade to Office 12, its going to have to do better than its last two releases. Customers seem to have decided that the Office they already own is just fine and see no reason to upgrade. Analysts suggest that the greatest competition to Microsofts updated software remains older versions of Office. Click here to read more. Overcoming this requires Microsoft to do more than add ever more arcane features, mostly aimed at big corporate customers and programmers. Redmond needs to do something that makes real users demand Office 12 because it makes their lives better and easier. To accomplish that, Microsoft needs to break the Office mold and start with something fresh. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for eWeek.com, where he writes a daily Blog (blog.ziffdavis.com/coursey) and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is www.coursey.com.

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