Monday, August 29, 2005

What do you want from the next version of Office?

I hadn’t really thought too much about it, but Olivier Travers has some very specific things he wants in this post.  From the post:

  • Seamless integration between Excel on the frontend and an online relational database on the backend.  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. 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 (put that stuff on the private web too), and we're all set.
  • 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.
  • 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". While you're at it, drop silly names such as "Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003" . . . really this should be how Office works out of the box.

I have a few of my own additions:

  • Make Outlook work as well with Exchange as it does any other mail protocol.
  • Exchange should provide as much value whether accessed by IMAP, POP3, OWA, or any other method.  For that matter, all of the previously-mentioned methods should be secure enough out of the box to make even the most security-conscious IS person perfectly happy.
  • The Mac version should look and act exactly the same as the Windows version.  If you are not going to provide the functionality in the first bullet above, then this must include Exchange access.  If you don’t think this is important, pull your head out of the sand and realize that Apple is planning on making OSX work on Intel machines.
  • X1–type features should be built into every application out-of-the-box.  When I pull up the Find dialog in any application, searching within a document should be the tightest scope in a list of options that go right up to searching the company intranet and the internet.
  • Figure out how to make the installation smaller.  If I could fit Office and all of its components onto a USB drive and everything worked correctly while leaving no footprints on the machine I plug the drive into, I might just get rid of my laptop.
  • Create a Linux version — there will be lots more people using Linux in the future.
  • Integrate with OpenOffice.  If you do not acknowledge and embrace OpenOffice, it may very well kill your product.  Does this mean you will have to embrace open standards or open up your proprietary standards?  Yes!
  • Open up the PST standard or start having e-mails stored in the MBOX format.  Yep, it’s that open standard thing again.

I’m sure there’s more, but between Olivier’s and my list, that’s a lot to start from.

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