Tag Archives: officesuite

Office Live is dead, mostly.

Microsoft tries a slightly different approach to keeping MS Office, their cash cow, healthy.

drawing: Microsoft

In 2007, Microsoft offered a fantastic deal: sign up for Office Live Small Business, register a domain name with them, host your modest website with them, create a blog on their platform, and share Office documents with your colleagues — all for little or nothing. I’ve been hosting my website and email there since 2007. They offered enhancements, including a storefront, for modest monthly fees. The collaboration portion was supposed to sell more copies of Microsoft Office.

I suspect that many Office Live users picked and chose: I used the website and email mailbox hosting services, but used OpenOfffice (cost $0) rather than Microsoft Office (cost $479).

For a couple of years it looked like Microsoft poured major effort into Office Live, but it suffered from lack of focus. About 2009, they began pulling the plug on it: they discontinued the storefront and blogging platform (“Microsoft Spaces”). Then development stopped. In 2010 they announced that they intended to kill Office Live and transition its users to a new product, dubbed Office 365.

I lost track of how many delays followed that announcement. During this time I looked at the transition procedure. I expected to see a simple procedure, but instead found a nightmare of confusing and incorrect documentation. It showed the usual lack of focus, as though people who never worked together or even spoke the same language had thrown together the mess that they called “The Transition Guide”.

I was sure that before the drop-dead deadline of April 30, Microsoft would produce a wizard that would ease the transition. I was wrong. They didn’t. In April I rolled up my sleeves and began transitioning my Office Live data to Office 365, and did the same for about a half-dozen clients.

Office 365 seems to be based upon the Software as a Service (“SAS”) model: you rent Microsoft Office from Microsoft for a monthly fee of $6.00 per user. I’ll continue to use Open Office instead.

I just heard that Microsoft has kept the email portion of Office Live, hosted by Hotmail, alive for one more month. I just tested mine. It is indeed alive.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

OpenOffice looks healthy

OpenOffice remains an excellent no-cost alternative to Microsoft Office.
OpenOffice screenshot

I’ve been happily using OpenOffice to create spreadsheets, reports, and correspondence for years. In 2009 I worried about its future once Oracle acquired it (What’s the future for OpenOffice and MySQL?).

John Dvorak in his recent article OpenOffice Gets IBM Boost reports that Oracle has spun off OpenOffice and that IBM is donating Lotus Symphony’s source code and some resources to the OpenOffice development effort.

This is great news! I plan to continue using OpenOffice. I have my OpenOffice Calc and Writer apps configured so that by default they save in Microsoft Office’s .DOC and .XLS file formats. My correspondents with Microsoft Office assume that I created the files in Microsoft Office. Sometimes I’m tempted to tell them that no, my office suite costs about $400 less than theirs. Long live OpenOffice!

(Solveig Haugland’s OpenOffice.org Training, Tips, and Ideas is a good resource.)

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Microsoft rolls out its Web Apps — gratis



Screenshot from The Windows Blog
Web Apps is Microsoft’s cloud-based answer to Google Docs.


The on-line version of Microsoft Office — called Microsoft Web Apps — offers lightweight versions of Microsoft Office’s Word, Excel, OneNote, and Powerpoint applications. This is Microsoft’s response to cloud-based Google Docs and Adobe Buzzword. (I notice that Web Apps doesn’t include a program similar to MS-Office’s Access database.)

Google Docs is aimed at Microsoft’s most profitable product, Microsoft Office. The success of Google Docs has placed Microsoft in an awkward position: it must offer an alternative to Google Docs, while not undercutting Microsoft Office sales. Web Apps allows users to view, share, and edit documents on-line, but doesn’t offer full Microsoft Office functionality. The office suite market is changing, and Microsoft’s introduction of Web Apps acknowledges that fact.

Web Apps seems like a great deal: it includes 25 gigabytes of on-line storage (called SkyDrive) for your documents. Microsoft is experienced at providing 90% of what you need for free; to get everything that you want, you must pay. This blog and my website are hosted (for free) on Microsoft’s OfficeLive, and I’m very happy with it; I’ve had to work around some of the limitations, but most of those limitations are manageable. I imagine that Microsoft Web Apps will be similar — not perfect, but good enough for most needs. Read Microsoft’s announcement.

Microcomputer software market history
This battle over office applications is just another example of the truth that no computing market segment is secure. Microsoft taught this lesson back in the early 1980s; now Google is teaching the same lesson to Microsoft. Microsoft started its life in the 1970s by creating computer language interpreters and compilers (MBASIC, ForTran, Pascal, etc.). For years, it seemed that they would stay within that segment, Digital Research would stay within the operating system segment, and Lotus and MicroPro would stay within the applications segment. Then Microsoft, using profits from its language products, released its Multiplan spreadsheet as a competitor to Lotus 1-2-3, MS-Word as a competitor to MicroPro’s WordStar, and MS-DOS as a competitor to Digital Research’s CP/M operating system. Bill Gates had removed the gloves and no segment was ever again sacrosanct. Now Google is playing the same game, using profits from its Adsense and Adwords to do battle on Microsoft’s turf. Knowing how much Bill Gates likes a good fight, I wonder if he’ll remain "retired" on the sidelines?

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The times, they are a changin’ for Microsoft Office.

 
 
I’m trying to see a big picture, and haven’t yet done so. I’ve gotta believe that these two recent events are related:
 
1. March 4: Microsoft announces that it’s discontinuing three of its fledgling Office Live ecommerce services for small businesses:
o  Store Manager
o. E-Mail Marketing Service
o. adManager Service
 
All three services are less than two years old and were offered as extra-cost options to Microsoft’s Office Live (website hosting and shared workspace provider).
 
2. March 8: Microsoft announces that with the release of Microsoft Office 14 in 2010, they’ll release a "free" ad-supported version with ads displayed alongside the workspace. (Read about it.) Presumably this will be a stripped-down version of Office, but that’s just a guess. This will be the carrot that persuades users to pay for a full copy of Microsoft Office.
 
 
What are Microsoft’s plans for Office Live?
I’m sure that there’s a strategy behind these changes in tactics, but I have no idea what it is. For years, Microsoft Office has been Microsoft’s most profitable product, so you can bet they’ll do whatever is necessary to protect its market share. Microsoft started Office Live a few years ago as an online companion piece to Office, to pull users away from Google Docs and Open Office. From what I’ve seen in my year of using Office Live to host my website, Microsoft has done a good job: you can use many Office Live features without having Microsoft Office on your desktop, but to get full functionality, you need to install Microsoft Office on your desktop computer. This allows almost seamless exchange of data between your desktop and the web-hosted Office Live apps, and the desktops of others in your workgroup(s). I think that this is a smart way of selling more copies of Microsoft Office, but . . .
 
Office Live, while very flexible, has appeared to lack cohesion. It’s obvious that lots of developers have been working on various aspects, but it has seemed as though they’re not all pulling in the same direction.
 
Is Microsoft abandoning the market for small business ecommerce capabilities? Are their administrative costs too high to support small businesses? (Many software vendors have never been interested in the small business market: Siebel, SAP, Oracle . . .)
 
It seems that Microsoft may be moving its Office Live service away from offering ecommerce solutions (which have almost no connection with promoting Microsoft Office on the desktop) and toward collaborative workspace solutions (which can promote Microsoft Office on the desktop).
 
I’m guessing that these two events are related in that somebody at Microsoft wants to focus on selling more copies of the cash cow (Office) and spend fewer resources on long-term gambles on a small business market with lower profit margins. What do you think?
 
Visit my website: russbellew.com
 
 
 

Open Office version 3 released and it looks good

Open Office, the free alternative to Microsoft Office, has just been updated to version 3. Its most attractive features for users of earlier versions of Open Office include (1) it can now read files in Microsoft Office 2007 format(!) and (2) it can directly create PDF files. It’s available in Linux, Windows, and Mac flavors. What’s not to like?
 
Read about and download it: http://www.openoffice.org
 
Visit my website: russbellew.com
 

Learn Microsoft Office on-line. Tuition: $0

Microsoft provides very good on-line training for its Office 2003 and Office 2007 products. Here’s the link: https://support.office.com/en-US/article/Office-Training-Center-b8f02f81-ec85-4493-a39b-4c48e6bc4bfb  I’m impressed with the quality of these lessons.

You may have already discovered that people who have Microsoft Office 2003 or earlier versions can’t open files from Microsoft Office 2007.

Version compatibility tip
If you’re an Office 2007 user who will be sending Microsoft Office files to other people, you can avert problems by saving your file as a "Word 97-2003 document." You can find the option in the "Save as type" drop-down box in the "Save As" window. Choosing this option means that anyone (who has earlier versions of Microsoft Office or Open Office) to whom you send the document will be able to open it.