Monday, July 20, 2009

Office 2010 Goes Online

Office 2010 Technical Preview

I don't know what was going on last week that there was so little news, but the most interesting thing to come out was truly that they new Office is now available for testing. Why is that interesting? Because I don't think I've talked about the fact that Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and probably other applications within the Office suite will be available online to use to store, share, and edit documents. Google was the first major player to the collaborative document editing game, but Microsoft is the one with the the enterprise standard software spanning more than two decades of development. Google Docs and its friends are great for students and just normal folk, but has not been considered secure enough for a lot of big companies and they haven't had a whole lot of success selling it to enterprises. Given that online functionality will be free to most companies though when they upgrade to Office 2010, Microsoft will have no problem. The fact that Google Docs exists and people use it at all shows that Microsoft has fallen behind and has gotten an appropriate nudge from Google. Could Office 2010 edge out Google from the market? Probably not. It has gotten a pretty good reputation in education and some small businesses, but they will probably be marginalized to the fringes of the market unless they can somehow 1up the Office web application. I'm not saying that's possible, but from what I've heard from insiders, this is going to be a great suite of web applications.

What else is new in Office 2010? Not a whole lot. It's really just an incremental improvement over Office 12. To be honest, I'd be happy with bug fixes, performance tweaks, and an overhaul of Outlook. I love Office 12 - except for Outlook. Of course, Outlook is going to just get small improvements, as well, since fixing how heavy it is would make too much sense. What I find coolest is that OneNote will integrate online. If I can get OneNote on my Pre, I'll be happy camper because I actually prefer the OneNote UI to Evernote, but I love the portability of Evernote. It just ties back into what I was saying with Google: shouldn't they have already done the online syncing like Evernote is? It feels like Office 2010 is a response to the market more than anything else. While this disappoints me because it almost seems like everyone else is coming up with the ideas for them, I feel like Office is a market leader for a reason and this new release is likely to keep it in the lead. I hope that they take some more time for the next Office though and really give us something to provide some innovation. With all the web integration possible, it shouldn't be too hard to come up with ideas.

Azure Takes On AWS

Let's continue on with Microsoft for a bit more. With Azure, Microsoft has its crosshairs on products like Amazon Web Services that provide the digital raw materials that developers need to build their web applications. They've finally announced pricing, and it's not quite as competitive to AWS as I would've thought. I'm a little surprised that they're entering this market so late because it's definitely not an easy market to join unless you have a really big advantage, but I'm not seeing it. It sounds like their pricing structure will be more complicated than what AWS charges, but I've heard that they may be differentiating in offering more advanced services than what Amazon provides, which is where you're paying a premium. I'm sure that more details are forthcoming, and it'll be interesting to see who gets on board with them.

Microsoft Streams Music

I have one last piece of Microsoft news for you. They're planning to launch a streaming music service this month similar to Spotify that would let you stream and share any music you'd like if you can put up with some ads, or pay a monthly fee to remove the ads. I think it's going to be a huge challenge for them since music is always hairy to work with, but it could end up being awesome. A free music service that works on your computer, Xbox 360, and Zune could be very appealing. If they allow it to be on mobile devices other than the Zune, I think that they can really do well with it - but I don't imagine that they'd have it available on other platforms initially. The Internet radio market is still very experimental and while this sounds like it's freer than an Internet radio station I hope that they have the resources to create a business model for it that works well.

Nokia Gets No Love

I've recently made reference on more than one occasion that Nokia is actually the worldwide leader in cell phones even though I'm sure that if you polled people who have or know about the iPhone they'd think that Apple is king of smartphones. So why don't you see more Americans get as excited about a Nokia phone as a Blackberry or an iPhone? I think at the head of it is really their poor carrier relationships. Who's going to buy a $700 N97 (no carrier will subsidize it) when you can get a $200 iPhone or Pre (or a Blackberry for even less)? The next biggest thing has to be their software. Whenever I've shopped for a phone I've never been impressed by a Symbian phone. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if more people in the U.S. have heard of webOS than Symbian. Despite how long its been around, they haven't attracted a lot of great applications. Without that, how can they have a long tailed future? I think that there's more room for a pendulum swing in cell phones, especially smart phones, than most other markets. I think it's very possible for Nokia to fall off their throne in the next 5 years if competitors get more aggressive. With Android and the iPhone pushing harder worldwide, Nokia definitely has cause for concern. It's only a matter of time before Palm gets its worldwide strategy in place, as well. I think that their inability to attract American consumers is a leading indicator that they're not going to be able to attract international excitement for their products either.

Facebook Pimps Your Photos

Facebook has really been making it too easy to take jabs at them. The Download Squad blog called them out for farming out users' pictures in advertisements served to their friends. While it could be disabled, it was initially turned on by default. This is pretty slimy, in my opinion. I don't see any scenario in which it's ok to use people's likenesses to sell products without compensating them. If stuff like this continues to crop up, I definitely see users wondering how they can trust Facebook.

TechCrunch Uses Leaked Twitter Documents

I don't really have a lot to say about this story, but it's important enough to bring up for you to think about it. An undisclosed hacker managed to gain access to the account for a Twitter employee and leaked some private documents. Techcrunch bought access to these documents and is prepared to use information from them while Twitter feels that they're acting on stolen trade secrets. I'm rooting for Twitter here: even if TechCrunch didn't steal the documents, it's unethical as a journalist to spread stolen information in the face of being asked not to. They're not really journalists though, they're bloggers. Their audience isn't as big as many newspapers, so do they count? Since mass media sometimes gets tipped off from these blogs, I think so. What do you think?

Final Stories

Once again, I'm out of time. Let's go for a lightning round!

The DDoS attacks I mentioned last week against the US and South Korea may have just been the work of some hooligans inn Asia since the attack seemed rather unsophisticated.

Microsoft reportedly was called by someone at Apple who asked them to stop running the laptop hunters ad campaign. Much to Apple's chagrin, the ads are, in fact, working.

ShareTV has recently grown quite a bit and aggregated a lot more TV shows. This is a great site to use as your digital television portal.

Amazon launched a store for outdoor recreation!

If you've ever seen a piece of computer circuitry and stared at it in wonder, now you can look up what it is.

Mashable posted a bunch of inspirational design videos from Vimeo that I think are really neat. It's worth checking out for fun (especially Muto).

Popular Mechanics has a cool story about the next evolution of touchscreen technology being buttons that can pop-up when necessary. Very cool idea for dealing with touch keyboards.

Apple has blocked the Pre from syncing with iTunes in the latest update, but that's been overshadowed by the release of the Mojo SDK! I still need to play with it (was having install issues tonight).

I don't know if I'll have a post up next Sunday since my parents are going to be here, but I've been working on an essay that I'll be putting up either next Sunday or the following Sunday. Have a great week!

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