11 Sep 2012

Microsoft Office: why it's still ahead

With new, free online productivity apps, why does MS Office still rule? Microsoft Office has been the gold standard in the business world for decades. But in recent years, a number of potential rivals have emerged, for the desktop as well as online. How do these stack up, and do they threaten Windows’ dominance? Feature poor Many of Office’s rivals are even free: for example OpenOffice, or Google Docs. Despite this, Forrester research has found that interest in Office alternatives is high, but adoption remains low. One key reasons is that rival products are often feature poor. Online office suites in particular tend to lack many of the powerful features that MS Office has. Incompatibilities also arise. Even if an entire company switches to an Office alternative, partners and clients will still be using Office. Glitches and problems can occur when documents from different productivity suites are exchanged. Forrester advises that for content and collaboration professionals, they should only be considered as replacements for casual users. It views them more as a complementary collaboration option rather than a genuine alternative. Office 365 vs Google Docs While Google Docs first offered the advantage of online access, Microsoft has quickly brought out its own online version, Office 365. PCWorld reviews found Office 365 more visually appealing and polished, with more templates and options, and better offline handling of documents: PCWorld notes that Microsoft makes key features easier to get to, and works more intuitively: “it seems that Microsoft has an edge in almost every category of comparison”. Most importantly, it’s an easier transition for desktop Office users to work with Office 365 than Google Docs. Ultimately Google Docs has the right price tag, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s just not that functional. It doesn’t do a massive bunch of things that Office does. In the business world, until Google Docs can offer equivalent functionality, businesses will demand Microsoft Office. Cloud and MS Office Another area cementing Microsoft Office’s dominance is the cloud. All cloud offerings out there in the business world are designed around supplying Office to knowledge workers. If you want to take advantage of the cloud, then all viable solutions need Office on Windows. Interest in Office alternatives will likely increase, for various reasons. They can be cheaper, they’re gradually getting gradually more capable, and IT departments will start embracing them more. But for now, the whole world essentially revolves around Microsoft Office. Nothing in the immediate future is going to take its place. What’s your most critical Microsoft Office feature? What would you like to see in a future update?