Microsoft Office 2010: Big Launch, Big Competition
Microsoft Office 2010 should bear no introduction, especially with the chatter surrounding its official release to the public at large this week. For the first time in a decade or so, we think an Office suite launch is going to face stiff competition — less from traditional desktop applications, and more from the brave new world of the cloud. Here’s the lowdown on the challenges facing Microsoft Office 2010.
First, a refresher. In addition to the usual suspects like new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Microsoft Office 2010 includes access to Office Web Apps, a browser-based compliment to the desktop suite that allows for document creation and collaboration in the cloud. It’s not Microsoft’s first foray into software-as-a-service (SaaS), with the Business Productivity Online Suite taking that distinction, but it’s far more visible in the public eye.
This cloud move has brought Office 2010 into direct competition with Google Apps, the search giant’s own suite of SaaS applications, leading to a war of words between the two companies.
Google says the $499 price tag on a boxed copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2010 is far too high for the time-consuming upgrade and it’s expensive to maintain to boot; Microsoft says Google Apps is simply not a mature solution, and takes any opportunity to remind IT administrators that Microsoft Office is the de facto business standard.
Not all of Microsoft Office 2010’s SaaS competition comes from Google: Zoho provides many of the same services as both Office Web Apps and Google Apps, but expands its scope to include high-level enterprise applications like CRM and invoicing, and IBM LotusLive has been making waves in the channel recently.
And speaking of non-traditional markets for Microsoft — on the Apple front, Microsoft says a new version of the suite is slated for release in the form of Office for Mac 2011 by the end of this year. Over at the Office 2011 for Mac blog, it’s been noted that there’s been a huge increase in compatibility between Office for Mac and Windows Office. Apparently, this is the most requested ‘feature’ from customers.
The entire user-interface isn’t in Cocoa yet (i.e. not 100% native) and because of that, there won’t be a 64-bit version shipping. Apple’s software framework requires that native UI before a 64-bit move can be made. But the Microsoft blog stresses that lack of work in the UI department was used to focus energies on other things, like the aforementioned comparability.
Microsoft has also taken time to create a much more decidedly ‘Mac / Leopard ‘ style to the suite, as noted by some leaked pictures from the beta. Office for Mac 2008 focused on the ‘bubbly’ nature of OS X’s older ‘Aqua’ theme, despite that style being old-hat for nearly a year. Perhaps this Microsoft’s nod to a stronger commitment to their software for OS X.
All year, we’ve been asking the same questions: Can Google Apps compete with Microsoft Office 2010? Is Google Apps a mature solution? Is Office Web Apps a worthwhile initiative?
With Microsoft’s Office launch, we’re getting closer to the answers. But I suspect that we’re going to find that Microsoft Office is simply too entrenched to lose much marketshare to the cloud in a single product generation, no matter what competitors bring to the table.