The Microsoft Office I Really Want

The Microsoft Office I Really Want.

Are you looking forward to the next release of Microsoft Office,
whenever that is and whatever it will do? Yeah, me neither. However, I
can see how a lot of value could be delivered on top of supposedly
ultra-mature products. Consider the needs of a virtual team doing
things such as product management and business development. Sure,
there's an increasing number
of web apps to cover such needs, but frankly, you can Ajax them to
death and Excel's frontend is still going to beat them to a pulp in
terms of responsiveness, flexibility and depth (yes I want to be able
to sort and filter and use garish colors if I want to).
I tried Jot during its beta and even the regular text wiki experience
was painful; every web grid I've played with was just that, a toy.
Imagine that enabling keyboard shortcuts in GMail was considered a
breakthrough. (Breathing down the neck of MS-DOS if you ask me, but
everything old is new these days.)

What I really want is seamless integration between Excel on the
frontend and an online relational database on the backend. No, I DON'T
want some intranet Office Server crap or Groove client overload that I
have to install and maintain myself, because that's just not going to
happen. And I'm not talking about just connecting Excel to some SQL
source and browse it remotely (a feature I've been using once in a
while), because this starts from the assumption someone created a SQL
database in the first place. Nice but not nearly enough.

What I want is an internet application with a desktop frontend, with
a choice of providers you can plug into, just like you can source other
hosting services. The whole “internet Excel stack” should automagically
normalize and synchronize the pseudo database work that most people do
with it. And if it looks and tastes like a bunch of names and
addresses, I should likewise be able to read/write/synch them through
Outlook contacts. Wikify/blogify Outlook Today to have a mini-portal to
point people to stuff and keep them on the same page (putthat stuff on
the private web too), and we're all set.

The magic part so unlike what's available today is that you could
start right from Excel, doing the junk you've done with it for a
decade, but now it gets all cleaned up and consolidated so that your
team can jump in without email attachments and tedious manual mergers.
With synchronization down to the cell level (Just Figure It Out,
sharing whole files is technology from last century and it's a waste of
our time).

Recap in case someone from Microsoft reads this (Scoble ping):

  • ASP service as a priority, not a half-baked afterthought.
  • No extra client install on top of the latest default MS Office install.
  • Make it as much backwards compatible as possible.
  • No crap that just doesn't happen to work on Office Mac.
  • No glue grunt work necessary on my end to make the magic happen.
  • Data entry starts with Excel and Outlook.
  • Data goes into tidy, secure, backed-up server heaven by wizard magic.
  • Integrated basic wiki/blog/portal.
  • No butterfly, no dog, no silly animal whatsoever.

Or even shorter: no server, no install, no programming. Get back to
your end-user roots, drop the full-time IT department requirement
mindset, and charge a tax to your product and marketing teams every
time they use the word “deploy”. Whie you're at it, drop silly names
such as “Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003” (I'm not
making this
up), really this should be how Office works out of the box. Do the hard
work so I don't have to, damn it! A team of several people needs to be
able to be up and running almost instantly: “Got Excel? Fine, click on
this URL, here's your password, and start updating the sales pipeline

Of course it's not going to happen. Microsoft will die fat through
death by incrementalitis (propagated by the nasty Enterprise virus).
For people who start companies now, Microsoft is the new IBM. If you
grow your business to the point where you need some IT guys, you're
going to whip them until they figure out “the internet way” rather than
deploy heavy infrastructure within your walls 
  [Olivier Travers]

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