Why open up?

I was over filming Mike Arcuri today. He’s a Group Program Manager over on Excel. He was showing me the new business intelligence features in Office 12.

You know, for those of you who say Office is dead it would be good to watch this video over and over when we get it up (it’ll be up in a few weeks). Office has a lot of kick left in it.

Huh? Last night I sat next to a director of finance and treasury for Starbucks while flying back from Oakland. He was using Excel to fiddle with numbers. He told me he loved Office and couldn’t live without it. He also told me that Starbucks opens five new coffee shops every day and chided me for working for a slow-growing company. Whew!

So, what does this have to do with opening Office up?

Well, Escamillo puts it pretty well: “Good. Now Microsoft Office must compete based on merit rather than file format compatibility and OpenOffice.org must compete based on merit rather than “use us because our format is open”.”

Oh, and Steve: have you watched the earlier video of what’s coming in Office 12? The guy from Starbucks hadn’t. Which explains just how big a challenge it is to get people to upgrade. Getting people to pay attention just isn’t easy. If it were the market would flip to new things every few years. Oh, and if it WERE easy we’d all have 60 million readers.

That doesn’t take away from what Steve’s saying. Attention IS important. Why? Because the attention system will either be siloed in the next 12 months or it’ll get built out.

Look at the decisions made in 1997 around instant messaging. IM clients are still siloed (although they are starting to be joined finally).

I sure hope attention doesn’t go the same way, although there are lots of pressures to silo that too.

Oh, just to make this post a little more confusing. Office is still going to sell like hotcakes because of Windows Workflow Foundation. That’s the new way that businesses are going to make themselves more efficient. The end points on such a system are all Office.

For those who are trying to figure out why Microsoft would make it possible to compete with Office, that’s where you gotta look. In all the Web 2.0 hype, you all missed this and there’s a big story here for enterprises and for developers.

Maybe we need to add AJAX to that so you’ll pay attention. :-)

98 thoughts on “Why open up?

  1. Wow, the comments on this post were a disaster. Honestly, this is simple. Microsoft “upgrades” the file formats to ostensibly incorporate new features, but more importantly to drive adoption rates of copies of the new version of Office. That’s ok. Office can’t stand still, and the new features are often ok.

    Microsoft has made the first significant changes to Excel and to the file formats used in Office in roughly 10 years. And they are substantive changes that incorporate substantial new features like the increased cell limit in Excel and the zip/xml file formats. No, the file formats aren’t a big deal to consumers – but businesses are the primary customer for Office, for PAINFULLY OBVIOUS REASONS!!! The changes to Excel are really impressive (and it’s obvious that competition has helped motivate MS a great deal). And the file format changes are a much bigger deal. There are a million uses for this, and customers that are abandoning VBA in droves can now work in Perl, Java and even C on competitors’ systems, and still deliver the ‘business standard’ MS docs. And anyone who dabbles in HTML for their blog/website/school projects will understand xml enough to open their document in code form and fix problems that they can’t seem to solve in Word (which, 20 some odd years later, still seems to happen).

    The previous posters made a good point about predictability. What guarantee will businesses have that these file formats will remain relatively stable in the future? That we won’t see a proprietary xml standard that better hooks into SQL server 2011? MS should chair a standards body, invite key international customers, and use that format to propose/accept changes and create schedule for changes in the future. If you want to remain a lingua franca, practice inclusion internationally so that the Chinese (among other key markets) don’t feel powerless to a foreign power. And so key international businesses feel secure that custom built database and programs tailored to MS’s current zip&xml format won’t need expensive re-writes for myriad ‘security updates’ over the course of a year.

    Just a thought.

  2. Wow, the comments on this post were a disaster. Honestly, this is simple. Microsoft “upgrades” the file formats to ostensibly incorporate new features, but more importantly to drive adoption rates of copies of the new version of Office. That’s ok. Office can’t stand still, and the new features are often ok.

    Microsoft has made the first significant changes to Excel and to the file formats used in Office in roughly 10 years. And they are substantive changes that incorporate substantial new features like the increased cell limit in Excel and the zip/xml file formats. No, the file formats aren’t a big deal to consumers – but businesses are the primary customer for Office, for PAINFULLY OBVIOUS REASONS!!! The changes to Excel are really impressive (and it’s obvious that competition has helped motivate MS a great deal). And the file format changes are a much bigger deal. There are a million uses for this, and customers that are abandoning VBA in droves can now work in Perl, Java and even C on competitors’ systems, and still deliver the ‘business standard’ MS docs. And anyone who dabbles in HTML for their blog/website/school projects will understand xml enough to open their document in code form and fix problems that they can’t seem to solve in Word (which, 20 some odd years later, still seems to happen).

    The previous posters made a good point about predictability. What guarantee will businesses have that these file formats will remain relatively stable in the future? That we won’t see a proprietary xml standard that better hooks into SQL server 2011? MS should chair a standards body, invite key international customers, and use that format to propose/accept changes and create schedule for changes in the future. If you want to remain a lingua franca, practice inclusion internationally so that the Chinese (among other key markets) don’t feel powerless to a foreign power. And so key international businesses feel secure that custom built database and programs tailored to MS’s current zip&xml format won’t need expensive re-writes for myriad ‘security updates’ over the course of a year.

    Just a thought.

  3. Wow, the comments on this post were a disaster. Honestly, this is simple. Microsoft “upgrades” the file formats to ostensibly incorporate new features, but more importantly to drive adoption rates of copies of the new version of Office. That’s ok. Office can’t stand still, and the new features are often ok.

    Microsoft has made the first significant changes to Excel and to the file formats used in Office in roughly 10 years. And they are substantive changes that incorporate substantial new features like the increased cell limit in Excel and the zip/xml file formats. No, the file formats aren’t a big deal to consumers – but businesses are the primary customer for Office, for PAINFULLY OBVIOUS REASONS!!! The changes to Excel are really impressive (and it’s obvious that competition has helped motivate MS a great deal). And the file format changes are a much bigger deal. There are a million uses for this, and customers that are abandoning VBA in droves can now work in Perl, Java and even C on competitors’ systems, and still deliver the ‘business standard’ MS docs. And anyone who dabbles in HTML for their blog/website/school projects will understand xml enough to open their document in code form and fix problems that they can’t seem to solve in Word (which, 20 some odd years later, still seems to happen).

    The previous posters made a good point about predictability. What guarantee will businesses have that these file formats will remain relatively stable in the future? That we won’t see a proprietary xml standard that better hooks into SQL server 2011? MS should chair a standards body, invite key international customers, and use that format to propose/accept changes and create schedule for changes in the future. If you want to remain a lingua franca, practice inclusion internationally so that the Chinese (among other key markets) don’t feel powerless to a foreign power. And so key international businesses feel secure that custom built database and programs tailored to MS’s current zip&xml format won’t need expensive re-writes for myriad ‘security updates’ over the course of a year.

    Just a thought.

  4. Um, Nick, maybe it’s because if you have to upgrade a couple thousand licenses, that cost goes WAY up? If your needs are being handled correctly by Office 2000, then the old “it’s not broken, LEAVE IT ALONE” comes into play.

  5. Um, Nick, maybe it’s because if you have to upgrade a couple thousand licenses, that cost goes WAY up? If your needs are being handled correctly by Office 2000, then the old “it’s not broken, LEAVE IT ALONE” comes into play.

  6. Um, Nick, maybe it’s because if you have to upgrade a couple thousand licenses, that cost goes WAY up? If your needs are being handled correctly by Office 2000, then the old “it’s not broken, LEAVE IT ALONE” comes into play.

  7. There are two simple questions about
    MS openness:
    Why did not MS open its Office formats before ?
    Why MS haven’t done it yet ?
    I mean old good Word and Excel files.
    Obviously they are de-facto standards. So openning them would be much more real step toward openness.

  8. There are two simple questions about
    MS openness:
    Why did not MS open its Office formats before ?
    Why MS haven’t done it yet ?
    I mean old good Word and Excel files.
    Obviously they are de-facto standards. So openning them would be much more real step toward openness.

  9. There are two simple questions about
    MS openness:
    Why did not MS open its Office formats before ?
    Why MS haven’t done it yet ?
    I mean old good Word and Excel files.
    Obviously they are de-facto standards. So openning them would be much more real step toward openness.

  10. Keep fighting, Scoble — we’ll all be better off when people upgrade away from clunkers like Office 2000. I personally don’t understand why people resist upgrading Microsoft software (on Windows, anyway). I’d do almost anything that might help if/when I was forced to work with that stuff more often. :)

  11. Keep fighting, Scoble — we’ll all be better off when people upgrade away from clunkers like Office 2000. I personally don’t understand why people resist upgrading Microsoft software (on Windows, anyway). I’d do almost anything that might help if/when I was forced to work with that stuff more often. :)

  12. Keep fighting, Scoble — we’ll all be better off when people upgrade away from clunkers like Office 2000. I personally don’t understand why people resist upgrading Microsoft software (on Windows, anyway). I’d do almost anything that might help if/when I was forced to work with that stuff more often. :)

  13. Another good question: The most salient reasons I’ve seen posted for this choice (whether or not I buy them–I don’t!) are: 1. it’s good for the users and developers, 2. although we own the code behind the applications and formats we want the users to “own” their data and documents throughout history no matter what changes occur to platforms or applications, and 3. we want to enable ISVs to profit from and improve the ecosystem of Window applications (ha, ha!.)

    (Of course, 1 is simple just 2 and 3 together, but so far you are doing a bad job of thumping the “It has nothing to do with Massachusetts” drum.)

    Okay, anyway, to the question: Having said that, is this not true of all of your formats and proprietary systems? If this is true, should you not also do the same with Exchange’s datastore, with DirectX, with XAML, and any number of other technolgoies?

    If you want me (and hopefully anyone else) to believe you (that it has nothing to do with Massachusetts), you have to explain to me why Office formats are uniquely different from your other tech.

  14. Another good question: The most salient reasons I’ve seen posted for this choice (whether or not I buy them–I don’t!) are: 1. it’s good for the users and developers, 2. although we own the code behind the applications and formats we want the users to “own” their data and documents throughout history no matter what changes occur to platforms or applications, and 3. we want to enable ISVs to profit from and improve the ecosystem of Window applications (ha, ha!.)

    (Of course, 1 is simple just 2 and 3 together, but so far you are doing a bad job of thumping the “It has nothing to do with Massachusetts” drum.)

    Okay, anyway, to the question: Having said that, is this not true of all of your formats and proprietary systems? If this is true, should you not also do the same with Exchange’s datastore, with DirectX, with XAML, and any number of other technolgoies?

    If you want me (and hopefully anyone else) to believe you (that it has nothing to do with Massachusetts), you have to explain to me why Office formats are uniquely different from your other tech.

  15. Another good question: The most salient reasons I’ve seen posted for this choice (whether or not I buy them–I don’t!) are: 1. it’s good for the users and developers, 2. although we own the code behind the applications and formats we want the users to “own” their data and documents throughout history no matter what changes occur to platforms or applications, and 3. we want to enable ISVs to profit from and improve the ecosystem of Window applications (ha, ha!.)

    (Of course, 1 is simple just 2 and 3 together, but so far you are doing a bad job of thumping the “It has nothing to do with Massachusetts” drum.)

    Okay, anyway, to the question: Having said that, is this not true of all of your formats and proprietary systems? If this is true, should you not also do the same with Exchange’s datastore, with DirectX, with XAML, and any number of other technolgoies?

    If you want me (and hopefully anyone else) to believe you (that it has nothing to do with Massachusetts), you have to explain to me why Office formats are uniquely different from your other tech.

  16. Scoble, I said you weren’t. You told me you weren’t and I believed you and thanked you. Those previous posts were tests and questions because I could see that others were posting and I wasn’t. Why several comments got lost in the ether, I don’t know.

    Oh, another question on the standards front: SMTPE still hasn’t finalized VC-1 approval yet, huh? Will that ever happen?

    If the Office formats take longer to standardize as expected as VC-1 has, will you delay the release of Office until it is standardized since you have already pledged the two will occur at the same time?

  17. Scoble, I said you weren’t. You told me you weren’t and I believed you and thanked you. Those previous posts were tests and questions because I could see that others were posting and I wasn’t. Why several comments got lost in the ether, I don’t know.

    Oh, another question on the standards front: SMTPE still hasn’t finalized VC-1 approval yet, huh? Will that ever happen?

    If the Office formats take longer to standardize as expected as VC-1 has, will you delay the release of Office until it is standardized since you have already pledged the two will occur at the same time?

  18. Scoble, I said you weren’t. You told me you weren’t and I believed you and thanked you. Those previous posts were tests and questions because I could see that others were posting and I wasn’t. Why several comments got lost in the ether, I don’t know.

    Oh, another question on the standards front: SMTPE still hasn’t finalized VC-1 approval yet, huh? Will that ever happen?

    If the Office formats take longer to standardize as expected as VC-1 has, will you delay the release of Office until it is standardized since you have already pledged the two will occur at the same time?

  19. “Good. Now Microsoft Office must compete based on merit rather than file format compatibility and OpenOffice.org must compete based on merit rather than “use us because our format is open”.”

    I find this statement hilarious. You think this is a good statement of the case? Why doesn’t Microsoft Office have to compete based on file format compatibility? They haven’t moved one inch to support other formats even though two companies and Sun have demonstrated a file format convertor between the 2 formats in question. Why does Microsoft get to avoid the file format issue? Because they are big? Because they want everyone to use their format so they get ECMA to call it a standard? How does that eliminate the issue for them?

  20. “Good. Now Microsoft Office must compete based on merit rather than file format compatibility and OpenOffice.org must compete based on merit rather than “use us because our format is open”.”

    I find this statement hilarious. You think this is a good statement of the case? Why doesn’t Microsoft Office have to compete based on file format compatibility? They haven’t moved one inch to support other formats even though two companies and Sun have demonstrated a file format convertor between the 2 formats in question. Why does Microsoft get to avoid the file format issue? Because they are big? Because they want everyone to use their format so they get ECMA to call it a standard? How does that eliminate the issue for them?

  21. “Good. Now Microsoft Office must compete based on merit rather than file format compatibility and OpenOffice.org must compete based on merit rather than “use us because our format is open”.”

    I find this statement hilarious. You think this is a good statement of the case? Why doesn’t Microsoft Office have to compete based on file format compatibility? They haven’t moved one inch to support other formats even though two companies and Sun have demonstrated a file format convertor between the 2 formats in question. Why does Microsoft get to avoid the file format issue? Because they are big? Because they want everyone to use their format so they get ECMA to call it a standard? How does that eliminate the issue for them?

  22. “IT people don’t live in Excel like Finance and Accounting people do, and it is arrogant for IT people to tell their users what is and what isn’t good enough for them.

    Finance folks, for the most part, are a conservative, schedule driven bunch [month end, quarter end, year end], who need to know that their tools will work for them. Like it or not, OpenOffice is too much of a question mark in their minds.”

    Right, Finance people don’t care, they just work within their existing systems. If IT can test and provide the tools, spreadsheets, reports, etc… that Finance needs, Finance doesn’t care. Finance also is usually involved in purchasing decisions (OO wins there) and data storage for auditing purposes (if governments or anyone starts migrating to truly “open” formats, OO would win there too.)

  23. “IT people don’t live in Excel like Finance and Accounting people do, and it is arrogant for IT people to tell their users what is and what isn’t good enough for them.

    Finance folks, for the most part, are a conservative, schedule driven bunch [month end, quarter end, year end], who need to know that their tools will work for them. Like it or not, OpenOffice is too much of a question mark in their minds.”

    Right, Finance people don’t care, they just work within their existing systems. If IT can test and provide the tools, spreadsheets, reports, etc… that Finance needs, Finance doesn’t care. Finance also is usually involved in purchasing decisions (OO wins there) and data storage for auditing purposes (if governments or anyone starts migrating to truly “open” formats, OO would win there too.)

  24. “IT people don’t live in Excel like Finance and Accounting people do, and it is arrogant for IT people to tell their users what is and what isn’t good enough for them.

    Finance folks, for the most part, are a conservative, schedule driven bunch [month end, quarter end, year end], who need to know that their tools will work for them. Like it or not, OpenOffice is too much of a question mark in their minds.”

    Right, Finance people don’t care, they just work within their existing systems. If IT can test and provide the tools, spreadsheets, reports, etc… that Finance needs, Finance doesn’t care. Finance also is usually involved in purchasing decisions (OO wins there) and data storage for auditing purposes (if governments or anyone starts migrating to truly “open” formats, OO would win there too.)

  25. A bunch of questions:

    1. Will the Office formats be frozen? For how long? If Microsoft modifies the format will they do so on the same timeframe as standard submission and approval?

    2. Will Microsoft allow others to modify the “standard” or will they continue to maintain sole control?

    3. If the standard is “open” and you “will not sue”, does that mean portions of the spec (accessibility, etc…) can be used by others in other formats?

    4. Why is your company so afraid of supporting ODF when other companies have already demonstrated the ability to convert Office to ODf and vice versa?

    5. Are we still at the Press Release phase or can we look at the new license(s) / “will not sue” covenant? How can / why should we be reassured if we don’t have a license or some legalese to compare with the PR?

  26. A bunch of questions:

    1. Will the Office formats be frozen? For how long? If Microsoft modifies the format will they do so on the same timeframe as standard submission and approval?

    2. Will Microsoft allow others to modify the “standard” or will they continue to maintain sole control?

    3. If the standard is “open” and you “will not sue”, does that mean portions of the spec (accessibility, etc…) can be used by others in other formats?

    4. Why is your company so afraid of supporting ODF when other companies have already demonstrated the ability to convert Office to ODf and vice versa?

    5. Are we still at the Press Release phase or can we look at the new license(s) / “will not sue” covenant? How can / why should we be reassured if we don’t have a license or some legalese to compare with the PR?

  27. A bunch of questions:

    1. Will the Office formats be frozen? For how long? If Microsoft modifies the format will they do so on the same timeframe as standard submission and approval?

    2. Will Microsoft allow others to modify the “standard” or will they continue to maintain sole control?

    3. If the standard is “open” and you “will not sue”, does that mean portions of the spec (accessibility, etc…) can be used by others in other formats?

    4. Why is your company so afraid of supporting ODF when other companies have already demonstrated the ability to convert Office to ODf and vice versa?

    5. Are we still at the Press Release phase or can we look at the new license(s) / “will not sue” covenant? How can / why should we be reassured if we don’t have a license or some legalese to compare with the PR?

  28. Well, Scoble, I guess that confirms that for some reason my posts are getting held up… Don’t know if others are seeing the same thing… (?) Anyway, guess WordPress is acting up again or summin.

  29. Well, Scoble, I guess that confirms that for some reason my posts are getting held up… Don’t know if others are seeing the same thing… (?) Anyway, guess WordPress is acting up again or summin.

  30. Well, Scoble, I guess that confirms that for some reason my posts are getting held up… Don’t know if others are seeing the same thing… (?) Anyway, guess WordPress is acting up again or summin.

  31. “Stephane Rodriguez says that OpenOffice is good enough for these people. If that were the case, they would be using it.”

    OpenOffice 2.0 came out just recently, so what do you expect. 2.0 is massively better than 1.x

  32. “Stephane Rodriguez says that OpenOffice is good enough for these people. If that were the case, they would be using it.”

    OpenOffice 2.0 came out just recently, so what do you expect. 2.0 is massively better than 1.x

  33. “Stephane Rodriguez says that OpenOffice is good enough for these people. If that were the case, they would be using it.”

    OpenOffice 2.0 came out just recently, so what do you expect. 2.0 is massively better than 1.x

  34. Just because you have open file formats, it doesn’t mean that they will add value for folks in finance.

    Once upon a time, paper was the file format for spreadsheets. Paper was an open standard [flat and made from trees] and it was portable [you could fold it or roll it up], and you could write on it with a pen or pencil, but by itself the format didn’t add a lot of value.

    There is such a disconnect between IT folks [especially the open source/no-MS IT folks] and the people in Finance they are charged with supporting. Stephanie Rodriguez says that OpenOffice is good enough for these people. If that were the case, they would be using it.

    IT people don’t live in Excel like Finance and Accounting people do, and it is arrogant for IT people to tell their users what is and what isn’t good enough for them.

    Finance folks, for the most part, are a conservative, schedule driven bunch [month end, quarter end, year end], who need to know that their tools will work for them. Like it or not, OpenOffice is too much of a question mark in their minds.

  35. Just because you have open file formats, it doesn’t mean that they will add value for folks in finance.

    Once upon a time, paper was the file format for spreadsheets. Paper was an open standard [flat and made from trees] and it was portable [you could fold it or roll it up], and you could write on it with a pen or pencil, but by itself the format didn’t add a lot of value.

    There is such a disconnect between IT folks [especially the open source/no-MS IT folks] and the people in Finance they are charged with supporting. Stephanie Rodriguez says that OpenOffice is good enough for these people. If that were the case, they would be using it.

    IT people don’t live in Excel like Finance and Accounting people do, and it is arrogant for IT people to tell their users what is and what isn’t good enough for them.

    Finance folks, for the most part, are a conservative, schedule driven bunch [month end, quarter end, year end], who need to know that their tools will work for them. Like it or not, OpenOffice is too much of a question mark in their minds.

  36. Just because you have open file formats, it doesn’t mean that they will add value for folks in finance.

    Once upon a time, paper was the file format for spreadsheets. Paper was an open standard [flat and made from trees] and it was portable [you could fold it or roll it up], and you could write on it with a pen or pencil, but by itself the format didn’t add a lot of value.

    There is such a disconnect between IT folks [especially the open source/no-MS IT folks] and the people in Finance they are charged with supporting. Stephanie Rodriguez says that OpenOffice is good enough for these people. If that were the case, they would be using it.

    IT people don’t live in Excel like Finance and Accounting people do, and it is arrogant for IT people to tell their users what is and what isn’t good enough for them.

    Finance folks, for the most part, are a conservative, schedule driven bunch [month end, quarter end, year end], who need to know that their tools will work for them. Like it or not, OpenOffice is too much of a question mark in their minds.

  37. Now that I’ve thought about it this whole discussion of “file formats” is old world thinking. Google’s going to eclipse this trouble by just having you store your documents on their servers.

    Then they’ll offer APIs for you to get at your data in different ways. No legacy file formats to worry about. No MSFT file format lock in to worry about. Granted you have to worry about your network connection to Google, but that’s probably why they are setting up hundreds of data centers.

    Google’s online office has MSFT running scared. There’s no need to hire IT staff to maintain a file server and permissions — google does that for you. So there’s no need to hire a dorky MSCE. That means less “education” revenue for Microsoft. Also one less Windows server.

  38. Now that I’ve thought about it this whole discussion of “file formats” is old world thinking. Google’s going to eclipse this trouble by just having you store your documents on their servers.

    Then they’ll offer APIs for you to get at your data in different ways. No legacy file formats to worry about. No MSFT file format lock in to worry about. Granted you have to worry about your network connection to Google, but that’s probably why they are setting up hundreds of data centers.

    Google’s online office has MSFT running scared. There’s no need to hire IT staff to maintain a file server and permissions — google does that for you. So there’s no need to hire a dorky MSCE. That means less “education” revenue for Microsoft. Also one less Windows server.

  39. Now that I’ve thought about it this whole discussion of “file formats” is old world thinking. Google’s going to eclipse this trouble by just having you store your documents on their servers.

    Then they’ll offer APIs for you to get at your data in different ways. No legacy file formats to worry about. No MSFT file format lock in to worry about. Granted you have to worry about your network connection to Google, but that’s probably why they are setting up hundreds of data centers.

    Google’s online office has MSFT running scared. There’s no need to hire IT staff to maintain a file server and permissions — google does that for you. So there’s no need to hire a dorky MSCE. That means less “education” revenue for Microsoft. Also one less Windows server.

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