From what's been reported so far, I don't see much to like about Office 2010. The discussion thus far has lacked a single 'killer feature' that makes me want to shell out a few hundred quid for an Office that seems only fractionally better than what I'm already using.
In fact, the real 'killer' aspect of the announcement may be what a free online version of Office does to the chance of consumers and very small businesses ever paying for Office again. Microsoft can blame that on the Googleopoly, right?
Okay, it won't be that bad. And Microsoft will doubtless leave so much out of an online Office that most business users will stay away simply because it doesn't do what they need done. But it's a sad day when a new version of Office can't generate more excitement than this one has been able to.
Preston Gralla has written a piece that singles out enhanced cut-and-paste as what "could prove to be one of the biggest productivity enhancers in Office 2010". Hardly compelling, even if useful. Other reviewers believe the free version is important, but how does it really help Microsoft?
Unfortunate disaster symbolism
Office 2010 was being shown yesterday at Microsoft's Partner Conference shindig down in New Orleans. I know there is some disaster symbolism at work here, but why besmirch the name of a perfectly horrible hurricane?
For example, it's too early to say: "First Katrina came ashore and now Office 2010." But the next Office could face the same challenges that turned Windows Vista into Microsoft's Titanic and that already seem to be threatening Windows 7.
That's another way of wondering: suppose Microsoft released a new Office and a new Windows and neither of them sold?
This is not intended as a broadside at Microsoft, just as a reminder of how difficult it is for Microsoft to build 'must-have' features on top of an already fine Office suite. My bet is Office 2010 will sell best to people who are two versions or more behind and want to catch up.
As for Windows 7, it looks like XP is becoming the best-loved Windows in the history of the platform. My bet is Windows 7 won't do as poorly as the survey that found 60 percent of IT admins don't plan to deploy it makes things sound.
Still, Microsoft has two major releases that don't seem to be gaining any momentum at all. You can blame some of it on the economy, none of it (really) on Google, at a lot on what happens when you happen to be your own best competitor. Right now, it's not Microsoft vs. Google so much as Microsoft vs. Microsoft.
And, either way, it seems like Microsoft will be the loser.