The Death of Microsoft Office - When Will Collaborative Tools Disrupt?

Last week, Microsoft announced that mobile and tablet versions of its Office applications would be free. The question is, should we care?

In the short term, the answer is yes.  Most companies and enterprises spend a good deal of money yearly on user computing devices and Microsoft licenses. Now let's say a number of those users are mobile, say the sales team. The new pricing enables IT to experiment and test Office with a small group to validate the experience on a tablet. If the mobile workforce can do enough of their document, presentation, and spreadsheet work on tablet devices then there is a strong likelihood that IT can outfit this group with tablets rather than laptops.

But the reality is that for the last several years, there have been less expensive alternatives to Office including offerings from Google, Zoho, Apple and now Amazon. For light weight users that don't need sophisticated features consumers and enterprises have had options if willing to change to a new user experience.

What about Power Users - What are their Needs Beyond Today's Office?

For power users, the question may be when, not if, there are suitable replacements to Microsoft Office or Office 365. Despite years of effort by Microsoft to enable collaboration and BI features in Office, most business users ignore these capabilities and end up working individually, passing documents back and forth via email, copying data into spreadsheets to do run off analytics and pasting charts into single use Powerpoint presentations. The aggregation of this this wasted digital effort will be the target for productivity improvements over the next several years.

The next generation of "Office" is already here, but the technologies go under different names and none have achieved critical mass as compared to MS Office. Until there are break away leaders that offer enough functionality to substitute MS Office and have a higher level of interoperability with other tools, the switching costs will look high to CIOs who can not afford a user backlash. Until then, these tools are largely additive to the Office experience. 

What is the next generation of "Office"?

It's collaboration tools that will aim to eliminate internal email dialogue and enable a more open, conversational, and searchable environment. Perhaps it will be a tool like Jive, an unseen mashup of Yammer, SharePoint, and Lync or a context enabled environment like Salesforce Chatter. 

Perhaps Excel 2013 will be more friend than foe in enabling spreadsheet jockeys to follow best practices in data governance and avoid a new generation of data landfills. My bet is on self service tools like Tableau and Qlik that realize that Excel isn't the enemy, it's PowerPoint, and both are investing in storytelling functions to eventually disrupt cutting and pasting into PowerPoint or other presentation tools.

Finally, perhaps either Google, Amazon, or Apple will shift from a Microsoft legacy orientation of documents, presentations, data and email to a more collaborative, mobile, and cloud enabled paradigm. Today, their apps look a lot like lesser versions of the Microsoft tools in order to chip away at Microsoft's dominance and easily switch over users. But if one of them re-imagined the user experience and reoriented their tools, it has a chance to get business users to think and act differently.

Place your bets.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:19 AM

    I'll place my bet on your side Isaac. We just started using Slack as our collaboration tool - early days but I see our use of 'word' and email diminishing, but will still need to have apps for spreadsheets and presentations.


Comments on this blog are moderated and we do not accept comments that have links to other websites.


About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.