I hope these are the last words I write about Microsoft Office, at least as the giant application suite is currently configured. As strongly as officials in Redmond deny or deflect any notion that XP, the latest version package, is the last of a dying breed, it would be good for all of us—and Microsoft—that it be so.
I know its hard for all of us to imagine a world without heavy, shrink-wrapped boxes stuffed with manuals, CDs and coupons, especially those priced somewhere north of $500; as well as a world without the enjoyment of having to repeat the process every two or three years—a process that includes scrounging the bottom of your desk drawers to find the receipt and the software boxs UPC code so you can qualify for the upgrade rebate.
It all seems so pointless. So when Microsoft teases us by hinting that eventually the Office product will be able to be purchased a la carte, or in ways in which upgrades can be delivered as a behind-the-scenes service (as long as you pay your fee), we start to get all verklempt, as Linda Richmond might say.
Until the day it actually happens, however, Im not going to get too excited. Ill admit, as an ardent .Net basher, that theres more “there” there than I thought there would be in .Net by now. But theres still a long way to go before the guts of the services vision are in a place that will make true software as a service a reality. You only have to look at Microsofts postponed attempt to initialize the subscription service in the United States (its instead getting a test run on the other side of the world, in Australia and New Zealand) to see that the shape of the future of software delivery is still unclear.
Still, you have to believe Microsoft gets it by now, that the upgrade gravy train has about slowed to a stop, that bloatware is a thing of the past and that smaller, faster, lighter and downloadable is a thing of the now and forever more. If not, given the initial yawns that XP has received, then the Redmondites are surely the only ones left who dont.