Give the Users What They Want

Opinion: Microsoft should offer an all-in-one app with a single interface that morphs to match what real users do. In the meantime, who needs Office 12?

Each recent release of Microsoft Office seems to have had a theme. Office XP was about presenting users with features they didnt know existed and providing an overall higher level of help and out-of-the-box support. It was the release of the Task Pane.

Much of that seemed to disappear or be muted in Office 2003, which spotlighted improvements to Outlook, SharePoint, XML and Tablet PC support. The overall theme was improved e-mail productivity, including the new anti-spam technology.

As Microsoft begins to provide its most trusted partners with the skinny on Office 12, Id like to suggest a theme that probably isnt in the plan, but should be. Its a simple suggestion that has to happen sooner or later: Get rid of Office as we know it.

Specifically, I want Microsoft to put Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio and Access out of our misery and create something more closely aligned with what users actually do each day, rather than all the things they might possibly do. I want this new application to feature a single user interface that morphs based on what the user is doing at the moment.

In this application, the user would be free to mix different types of data, allowing a single page to include a spreadsheet, information from a database, text and graphics, all created from within the document itself.

The goal would be to accomplish something I dont believe personal computers have done lately: Increase worker productivity and happiness. I know the productivity stuff makes sense to most people—more work in less time. The happiness part relates to how much in control of the computer the user feels. Is the computer working for her or vice versa?

Microsoft Office has never felt like a really good tool to me. I cant exactly describe this, but have you ever had a tool that just felt "right" in your hand? Have you ever felt this way about Microsoft Office? Neither have I.

Next Page: Just make it work.