The Office Paradigm

Everyone uses Office right? In fact most people think that Office comes standard with Windows or any new PC you might buy. The reality is that the next generation of computing users think that Office only exists on the PC and some might have seen it running on a Mac or a tablet computer. Only a very few select have installed the mobile versions of the same apps but most smartphone and tablet users will just use the productivity tools that came with their device and call them Office as if it were some interchangeable term that can been applied at will. I have even had conversation with folks talking to me about how great Word for iPad is all the while pointing the Pages icon… And that is the Paradigm of Office.

How does a company like Microsoft step out of the shadow they created of an Office suite so ubiquitous that every other productivity tool on the market saves to their proprietary format? How is it that they’re own Office Apps are not the dominant products on those mobile platforms. Why is Google Docs still so attractive despite it’s constant re-branding and obvious lack of advanced features and fonts? Why does every speaker I have seen in the last year have a PDF version of their Powerpoint ready to be displayed on an iPad and secretly wish their company had a corporate Keynote template they could use instead?

Well one way would be for Microsoft to make the Office Suite free to anyone with a mobile device… And guess what they did this week? That’s right, if you download Word, Excel or Powerpoint on your tablet or get the Office Mobile App on your phone, you will no longer be restricted to using it with a Office 365 subscription. In fact as of this week, Dropbox has fully integrated with Office and will allow all three apps to open Dropbox files directly. On the return Dropbox will launch the appropriate Office app when required, pretty much eliminating the complex round tripping that iPad users had been forced into doing in order to complete the most mundane desktop task of editing a Word, touching up a Powerpoint deck or updating an Excel formula in a spreadsheet.

In fact if you compare the desktop and mobile versions of Office, you’ll find their is not much that can not be done while on the go. There will always be some limitations, but most of us could get by quite nicely with a mobile only solution. So let’s break it down:

Product Desktop Mobile Web
Outlook Yes Exchange Active Sync / 365
Word Yes Yes 365
Excel Yes Yes 365
Powerpoint Yes Yes 365
Lync Yes Yes Lync Web App
OneNote Yes Yes
OneDrive Yes Yes Yes

For mobile version please check either App Store or Google Play

So what is missing?
Access databases, MS Project, MS Visio, Sharepoint Designer

All of which are pretty much pro apps. I slug Access into pro, because most folks still keep non-relational data in Excel and if you know what non-relational data means then you are on the pro path: kudos.

So what does this mean for Google, Apple and LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice love them forks). Not much at all I’m afraid. It simply means more choice for the user and more options for all of those that want to bring their tablet to work and actually get some work done on it. This is definitely the right direction for Microsoft too. I honestly believe the Satya Nadella (CEO) is steering Redmond int he right direction. If Microsoft is going to remain relevant and keep it’s strangle hold on the Office crowd, they need to play dirty by a) giving it away and b) keeping it fresh. Two things that will surely piss off every IT Manager as Microsoft then tries to reach into every business and try to pry out some money for work related use of their free tools. What this usually means is that companies have to stop think of Office as something they buy every five years with capital budget and now look at look at more of SaaS (software as a service) model where they license their users annually to use productivity tools under an operating budget. This is is a very big pill for most companies to swallow as they already find their IT spend to be quite high. But if look back a few years, office productivity was measured in paper and pen office supply cost which where always consumables. In many ways this capital spend on reams of paper and wells of ink where actually more of an operating cost as this was generally considered as the cost of doing business. What we are seeing more and more of is that you as an employee cost the company $XYZ per year to remain productive and what the bean counters want to do is to see if you can remain productive without have to spend any money on you at all, pretty forcing them to use antiquated tools or move towards a BYOD model. This is pretty much like how contractors should show up to a job sites with their own power tools or use the wooden handle hammer the custodian might keep in the stock room. The job might still get down but it might take more time and it won’t have the same finish. But guess what, that contractor is simply passing on the cost of his brand new Dewalt nail driver onto you in the total costs for the flooring job. And this is what IT Manager now have to do, they have to sell the cost of productivity back to business as an ongoing cost. Pay up every year if you want to stay productive, like they already do for their iPhones. Which any geek that has been reading this site in the past would already know, is a bigger sales job than they can usually manage.

Or is this the Office Paradigm: pay to play… Who said gamification wasn’t coming to IT


  1. I tried the new Office 365 when it was announced, and it looks really slick! You’re probably right that MS just wants to make sure people keep using Office at home/school so they don’t bring Apple or Google to work with them.

    I agree that none of the big players have a decent relational data solution (Google has Fusion Tables for really large data sets, but it doesn’t have good relationship handling).

    If you look carefully at what Microsoft is giving away though it really is still just a teaser and you only get all the power when you hand over your wallet. I still think Google gives you more bang for free, because the additional features you get for paid subscriptions are back-end features, for the admins, the end-users (consumer and business alike) get everything for free (except additional storage).

    PC World did a good comparison of the additional free features vs. the full paid feature-set in the new Office 365.

    The subscription model has existed for quite some time though, at a certain size companies just subscribe to annual licenses from Microsoft. The reason the employees seem stuck one or two version behind is corporate IT departments take that long to roll-out the new version to the employees. And by then the next version is available to consumers. Microsoft may be trying to push the subscription threshold lower and lower, maybe even to the consumer level. But at the corporate level it has existed for many years.