Microsoft Office 2010 Hits Stores. Yawn

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Am I the only who finds Forrester analyst JP Gowdner's blog proclamation that "Office 2010, Microsoft's latest release, will continue to succeed with consumers" and "In terms of usage and penetration, Google Docs remains a failure" on the eve of Office 2010's arrival to retails stores be a little ... suspicious? Could it have anything to do with Microsoft having just launched an $80 million Office 2010 ad campaign?

Gowdner, who covers the consumer market and not the business market, maintains that Microsoft Office 2010 is going to stay on top because "The browser-based experience remains limited ... Consumers have a deep, longstanding relationship with Office ... [and] Local computing power is plentiful and cheap."

To which I say: so what? Those aren't reasons for Office to do well. They're reasons to stick with what you already have. I expect Office 2010 to stagnate on the market. Gowdner and Microsoft who he quotes, see Office 2010's point as being "To sell packaged client software and offer Web-based services to augment the experience."

Excuse me? Sell boxed software in 2010? What planet are you from?

Tell me, before I put my credit card number down, exactly what is in Office 2010 that's so great about it that I should buy it if I already have a copy of Office 2007 and it's working just fine. Or, in my case, the open-source OpenOffice.

Let's get real. There has not been a significant upgrade in office suite functionality, from anyone, since, oh, Office 97. Unless, of course, you count the Office Ribbon that came in Office 2007 - and I don't: I find it annoying and not one bit helpful. I've read the Office 2010 reviews, and I've used it myself on both my Windows XP and 7 desktops, and I don't see a single new feature or improvement that made me want to spend money on it. Frankly, I don't think that there's enough 'there' there to justify spending money on any office suite these days. There just isn't that much in the way of functional differences between any of the office suites.

Let's say someone does want a new version of Office. In that case, may I suggest, no matter how cheaply you can get a copy of Office 2010, that you download a copy of OpenOffice 3.2.1 first. The most common bottom price for Office 2010 that I've seen is $129.99 for the Home and Student editions. OpenOffice's cost? Zero.

I think Gowdner's arguments in favor of Office 2010 over the likes of Google Docs or Zoho are red herrings. Office's real competition, since WordPerfect became a distant also-ran, has been its massive installed base and, to a lesser extent, OpenOffice.

The honest truth is that there's no good reason for a home or SOHO (small office/home office) to switch from an old copy of Office or OpenOffice. If you want to do more collaborative work, then sure, you might want to switch to something else - but why switch to Office 2010? Try Google Docs, and even Microsoft's own free Web-based Office Web Apps. I and many other people I know use Google Docs all the time for collaborative work.

As my buddy and fellow blogger Preston Gralla put it, "Unless Microsoft powers up Office on the Web, five years from now, Google Apps may make significant inroads in the enterprise." I don't think it will take that long, especially since I can't see Microsoft making Office Web Apps a real competitor with Microsoft Office.

Microsoft's counterargument is that, while people may think that Google Docs and the like are "good enough," they're really not. Sorry, I just don't see it for home and SOHO users. Nor for that matter do I buy that an old-style boxed office suite is a good buy for a corporation.

If you've made the mistake of tying your company to an eternity of paying fees to Microsoft for SharePoint and other server-based office add-ons, then you're stuck with them. But even in this case, is there really a compelling business reason to "update" from Office 2007 to Office 2010? If there is, I sure haven't seen it.

One final thought: Google managed to give up its Windows and Office addiction to save cash being wasted on licensing fees. If they can do it, why can't you at home or in your office?

This story, "Microsoft Office 2010 Hits Stores. Yawn" was originally published by Computerworld.

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