Office 2000 is Not Fun
Tuesday, June 8, 1999 by Dave Winer.
As promised, I went to the Microsoft Office 2000 rollout yesterday at Sony's new Metreon complex in San Francisco.
SF Mayor Willie Brown introduces MS President Steve Ballmer. The big names were there, reps from all the bigtime pubs, but the content of the event, Office 2000, was disturbing to me. I wanted to know if this would be the last version of Office. I wondered if Office is really relevant, or if this is the last generation's last gasp before succumbing to the new way.
I wanted to ask questions, but I didn't. I consider this a tremendous act of restraint on my part. The last time I was invited to a big industry press conference I couldn't help myself and it resulted in me not being invited back. This time I saved my questions for this DaveNet piece.
So here are the questions I would have asked..
1. This appears to be a battle between Office and the web, and of course Office won, or so Microsoft says. Office embraces the web, but is Microsoft's web the same as The Real Web?
2. If the browser is part of the OS, is it also part of Office? I see MSIE as something separate from Office. Is this correct?
3. Does Microsoft leave features out of the browser to encourage people to buy Office?
4. Can I use Netscape's browser to be part of Microsoft's web? What about Mac users? Palm Pilot users? What if I like Linux? Can I be part of Microsoft's web?
5. Does Microsoft have any competition in the app suite market? If so, are they trying to embrace and extend the web too? If there is no real competition, where does Microsoft get its ideas from?
6. Does anyone really need all these features? Does anyone use them? Can one mind comprehend three CDs worth of software? Would today's Office make any sense to someone who had never used an Office suite?
7. What is Office? One or two sentences please.
8. If Office was a good idea in the 1980s is it still a good idea for the 2000s? If you were going to start developing a new Office now for shipment in 2002, what would it look like? Would it in any way resemble what we saw yesterday?
Like a scene from Microserfs, there were a couple of reps from Penguin Computing outside the event being young and enthusiastic and handing out leaflets. One was dressed in a penguin costume!
The SF police kicked them out. I asked the cops if this was legal, they said it was private property. But I saw homeless people selling street newspapers.
I felt sad for the Linux youngsters, but sadder for Microsoft. In the old days they would have enjoyed this. Microsoft used to be this scrappy. Gotta love the Linux attitude.
Even though I've had Office installed on my system for two years, I still don't consider myself an Office user. I switch computers too often. I've never set aside any time to learn how to use it. I'm too busy creating content and software for the web!
Yesterday I decided that Microsoft is like Merrill Lynch, Barnes and Noble and The New York Times. Doomed to be overcome by the web.
Office shows development muscle and a tremendous coordinated resolve to overcome challenges, and this it does very well. But its imagination is missing in action. It takes no risks. There's no sweeping vision, no possibility of doing something powerful and new.
Office 2000 is not fun. I think even Microsoft would admit that. Office doesn't really embrace the web because the web isn't just about HTTP, HTML and XML -- in a larger sense the web is about fun!