Observations from where technology meets business

Microsoft Office Live Workspace

On Sunday Microsoft unveiled plans for Office Live Workspace, touting it as their entry into the free online office suite market. The response, at least from the blogosphere, has been what can best be described as a collective yawn. There was only a brief conversation about it on SlashDot and hardly any presence at all on Digg.

Responses ranged from confusion:

"I wish I could give you a simple explanation of what the company is offering, but, this being Microsoft, what we have is a witch's brew of balkanized services, elaborate brand hierarchies, and jargon out the wazoo."

Nicholas Carr's Rough Type

...to indifference:

"There's nothing even approaching an actual online editor and, frankly, not much to compel anyone to use the new services. In fact, the only thing truly interesting about Office Live Workspace is what it doesn't do: create and edit docs in the browser."

Scott Gilbertson's Wired Blog

...to critical:

"The barbarians are at the gate, a new horde is on the way, but no one seems to be defending the castle. Instead, the Microsoft Office warriors are rebranding, repackaging and relaunching old products and calling them new."

Michael Arrington's TechCrunch

...to insulting:

"Microsoft readies Office Live Workspace, an online storage space for office documents. The catch? You can only edit the spreadsheet, Word doc or slideshow if you have MS Office installed on your computer. Uh, ok."

Lifehacker (the title of the post was "Dumb")

Microsoft Office received more attention for an error in Excel 2007. Adobe received more coverage of its announced acquisition of Virtual Ubiquity, an online word processor. Well that might be because it looks like Adobe may actually release an online office suite.

To me it appears Google is making progress convincing the public that online documents offer advantages over the document-as-file paradigm supported by client-based office suites.

It's also not clear if Workspace will be based on SharePoint or something else. The way it is described it sure sounds like SharePoint but nothing from Microsoft actually says it is SharePoint. I only found a brief mention of Workspace being based on SharePoint from Mary Jo Foley's coverage. But then Mary Jo contradicts herself in the same paragraph by saying documents will be viewable in a browser.