Hey, Steve Gillmor…

stick this into your "Office is dead" pipe and smoke it!

Damn, Excel 2007 is gonna make a lot of bean counter's lives a lot more interesting.

Seriously, does this count as a gesture in Steve's gesture bank? Heheh.

Don't worry if you can't figure out what we're talking about. It's a metaphor. ;-)

21 thoughts on “Hey, Steve Gillmor…

  1. Robert:

    Great discussion here and one that mirrors my experiences showing both Vista and Office 2007 to my team. The one difference is that we make network security software and so the improvements you point to in the stack are meaningful and we know that we have to develop against the next version of Windows so there’s less pushback but only a little more excitement that what Eddie describes.

    Office 2007, OTOH, just blows people away. The improvements go beyond the ribbon. Outlook is much more useful and OneNote simply rocks in its second incarnation, especially on the Tablet PC.

    One the question of “Lite” versions and the 5% feature issue, I think it’s inevitable that Microsoft is going to have to get more modular as the suite continues to evolve to better address the usability, complexity, and power consumption issues that 330angelo raises. This could start with a smarter installer that lets me self-select the kind of user I am to use a profile that installs an appropriate set of features. Back that up with an easy way to add additional features (or sets of features) as my needs evolve and you have a better user experience without changing the economics.

    And yes, Mike is right. Modders hate the new UI. If you’re in the beta, read the newsgroup discussions. There’s a lot of vehement discussion about the lack of customization available in Office 2K7. The consensus is that the QAT doesn’t get the job done for power users.

    But the vast majority of people don’t customize toolbars or build new ones, write macros, or program additional functionality in VBA. And from what I’ve seen and what the Office team has stated in the interviews you’ve done with them on Channel 9 and in their own blogs, usability studies show that typical Office users are finding the Ribbon to be less intimidating to use.

  2. Robert:

    Great discussion here and one that mirrors my experiences showing both Vista and Office 2007 to my team. The one difference is that we make network security software and so the improvements you point to in the stack are meaningful and we know that we have to develop against the next version of Windows so there’s less pushback but only a little more excitement that what Eddie describes.

    Office 2007, OTOH, just blows people away. The improvements go beyond the ribbon. Outlook is much more useful and OneNote simply rocks in its second incarnation, especially on the Tablet PC.

    One the question of “Lite” versions and the 5% feature issue, I think it’s inevitable that Microsoft is going to have to get more modular as the suite continues to evolve to better address the usability, complexity, and power consumption issues that 330angelo raises. This could start with a smarter installer that lets me self-select the kind of user I am to use a profile that installs an appropriate set of features. Back that up with an easy way to add additional features (or sets of features) as my needs evolve and you have a better user experience without changing the economics.

    And yes, Mike is right. Modders hate the new UI. If you’re in the beta, read the newsgroup discussions. There’s a lot of vehement discussion about the lack of customization available in Office 2K7. The consensus is that the QAT doesn’t get the job done for power users.

    But the vast majority of people don’t customize toolbars or build new ones, write macros, or program additional functionality in VBA. And from what I’ve seen and what the Office team has stated in the interviews you’ve done with them on Channel 9 and in their own blogs, usability studies show that typical Office users are finding the Ribbon to be less intimidating to use.

  3. I advocate 5% of the code of Excel 2007 codebase, not 5% of its features. Considering a 15 year old codebase, and an extensive framework like .NET, it does not take a genius to figure that Excel lite is possible. Just that Microsoft does not want it to open for financial reasons. Hence the irrelevant cash cow. Hence the lack of transparency. Hence all the bloat.

  4. I advocate 5% of the code of Excel 2007 codebase, not 5% of its features. Considering a 15 year old codebase, and an extensive framework like .NET, it does not take a genius to figure that Excel lite is possible. Just that Microsoft does not want it to open for financial reasons. Hence the irrelevant cash cow. Hence the lack of transparency. Hence all the bloat.

  5. Robert: maybe I framed this wrong. Of all of Excel’s functionality, certain features are used by practically all users. Arithmetic, resizeable cells, Sum() and other common functions…the essentials.

    Software has advanced so much that the essentials aren’t even talked about. I mean, no one’s going to point out that Excel can add columns of cells very accurately or quickly. :-) But, sometimes all you really want are the essentials.

    The problem you point out is one of marketing, because Microsoft has designed Excel to be all things to all people…which is a tough, if not impossible, thing to do.

    Microsoft should realize that *my* problem (or any individual’s) has nothing to do with someone else’s problem or aggregate data. My problems would be more along the lines of:

    - Running Excel versus a Web 2.0 app: my laptop runs hotter, the battery empties faster, system resources are more heavily taxed;

    - Collaboration & accessibility is easier online;

    - I’d rather search with tags than filenames in a directory tree (though MSN Search has helped big time);

    …to name a few.

    Seriously, I’ve never thought the problem is that everyone uses a different 5% of Excel. I just look at it as a user, not a developer or marketer. :-)

    At the end of the day, MS will make the choices that make business sense, but users will just make the choice that makes sense. Sometimes that means Excel, and sometimes it doesn’t.

    I think MS should realize this, and also realize the business sense in providing users with options for the times that Excel doesn’t make sense. Hey, if I’m not using Excel for a certain spreadsheet, at least they could make some advertising money while I’m using WebExcel…or just benefit from the value of “keeping it in the family,” so to speak.

  6. Robert: maybe I framed this wrong. Of all of Excel’s functionality, certain features are used by practically all users. Arithmetic, resizeable cells, Sum() and other common functions…the essentials.

    Software has advanced so much that the essentials aren’t even talked about. I mean, no one’s going to point out that Excel can add columns of cells very accurately or quickly. :-) But, sometimes all you really want are the essentials.

    The problem you point out is one of marketing, because Microsoft has designed Excel to be all things to all people…which is a tough, if not impossible, thing to do.

    Microsoft should realize that *my* problem (or any individual’s) has nothing to do with someone else’s problem or aggregate data. My problems would be more along the lines of:

    - Running Excel versus a Web 2.0 app: my laptop runs hotter, the battery empties faster, system resources are more heavily taxed;

    - Collaboration & accessibility is easier online;

    - I’d rather search with tags than filenames in a directory tree (though MSN Search has helped big time);

    …to name a few.

    Seriously, I’ve never thought the problem is that everyone uses a different 5% of Excel. I just look at it as a user, not a developer or marketer. :-)

    At the end of the day, MS will make the choices that make business sense, but users will just make the choice that makes sense. Sometimes that means Excel, and sometimes it doesn’t.

    I think MS should realize this, and also realize the business sense in providing users with options for the times that Excel doesn’t make sense. Hey, if I’m not using Excel for a certain spreadsheet, at least they could make some advertising money while I’m using WebExcel…or just benefit from the value of “keeping it in the family,” so to speak.

  7. 330angelo: the problem is, everyone uses a different 5% of Excel.

    The new version makes a lot more of the features discoverable, though, and makes things that used to take three hours doable in seconds.

  8. 330angelo: the problem is, everyone uses a different 5% of Excel.

    The new version makes a lot more of the features discoverable, though, and makes things that used to take three hours doable in seconds.

  9. Robert, I’ve got to mostly agree with Mike. Excel’s definitely not dead, but you’ve gotta admit it’s just too much damned program for 95% of what people use a spreadsheet for.

    It’s like using the Spaceshuttle to drive to work. Or a 747 to get to the corner grocery store. Or a Hummer to get to the bathroom. Or a jetpack to get out of bed.

    Recently, I did a small contract project for a major homebuilder who required a pretty sophisticated spreadsheet — I used Excel and probably 20ish% of its bells and whistles, vba, pivot tables, blah, blah.

    But, when I throw together a simple spreadsheet with simple calculations, I’ve been using a free (nudge)(nudge)(hint)(hint) Web 2.0 app.

    Microsoft probably knows this and hopefully they are already addressing it…

  10. Robert, I’ve got to mostly agree with Mike. Excel’s definitely not dead, but you’ve gotta admit it’s just too much damned program for 95% of what people use a spreadsheet for.

    It’s like using the Spaceshuttle to drive to work. Or a 747 to get to the corner grocery store. Or a Hummer to get to the bathroom. Or a jetpack to get out of bed.

    Recently, I did a small contract project for a major homebuilder who required a pretty sophisticated spreadsheet — I used Excel and probably 20ish% of its bells and whistles, vba, pivot tables, blah, blah.

    But, when I throw together a simple spreadsheet with simple calculations, I’ve been using a free (nudge)(nudge)(hint)(hint) Web 2.0 app.

    Microsoft probably knows this and hopefully they are already addressing it…

  11. Tip of the day: Invest in a Tiffen. Watching Channel 9 grants me headaches, Steadicam Jr. should do. Tho I am so so in lust for an Archer, well UltraCine and Vector too (but that’s budget crazy). And what you edit with anyways? MFST Movie Maker? (hahah). Actually my only homemade MAKE Mag geeky mode is in creating jigs, cranes, dollys and steadicams of all sorts.

    Awesommme site, btw: http://homebuiltstabilizers.com/

  12. Tip of the day: Invest in a Tiffen. Watching Channel 9 grants me headaches, Steadicam Jr. should do. Tho I am so so in lust for an Archer, well UltraCine and Vector too (but that’s budget crazy). And what you edit with anyways? MFST Movie Maker? (hahah). Actually my only homemade MAKE Mag geeky mode is in creating jigs, cranes, dollys and steadicams of all sorts.

    Awesommme site, btw: http://homebuiltstabilizers.com/

  13. Granted there are new features in Excel 2007, but all of the simple “on the fly” menu mods are history, as are custom toolbars.
    Those two items are not going to please Excel modders.

  14. Granted there are new features in Excel 2007, but all of the simple “on the fly” menu mods are history, as are custom toolbars.
    Those two items are not going to please Excel modders.

  15. Eddie, that’s interesting, but nearly matches the kind of feedback we heard about Windows XP. It demonstrates we haven’t done a good enough job of surfacing the new stuff. The new networking stack is dramatically better, for instance. So is the new audio stack. These don’t translate into better UI, but they translate into a far better experience long term.

  16. Eddie, that’s interesting, but nearly matches the kind of feedback we heard about Windows XP. It demonstrates we haven’t done a good enough job of surfacing the new stuff. The new networking stack is dramatically better, for instance. So is the new audio stack. These don’t translate into better UI, but they translate into a far better experience long term.

  17. Robert,
    I showed Vista build 5342 and Microsoft office 2007 TR1 to a few people from university yesterday that came over for dinner. Basically the upshot is they found no real reason to upgrade to vista. I suspect MS in real trouble here as even though I was cycling through a number of vista features, the main message I got back was that is not that much different to XP and they couldn’t see a compelling reason to upgrade. It was basically yeah that’s nice, but…

    Office 2007 was met with a very different response. This was like when is it coming out, wow this is cool, yeah I can see how this would make my work easier etc…. Just showing them live preview had them immediately seeing the benefits. When I showed them some new referencing features that are pertinent to the psychology department, e.g. APA referencing they found that extremely useful. Same with excel and PowerPoint the feedback was very positive, they loved the ribbon and galleries in particular but really see a lot of value in how this would help them be more productive.

    One of the big differences in their minds was that Office 2007 does not look like previous versions of Office, where as vista looked similar to XP in their minds, despite the full aero experience etc… I think there is an undelying psychology there that if it looks different then it is, but if it doesnt look all that different then its not. I think MS will need to address this psychological impression on users somehow, but thats just my opinion and yeah i know my opinion doesnt amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

    Three people is hardly a great gauge to assess future sales I know, but I did find the reactions quite interesting. Particularly so because these were not high end techies but not computer illiterate by any means. More like your average user.

    What I got out of all that, was that three people were sold on office and will buy it when available and will probably push the uni to upgrade to office 2007, but they won’t buy Vista.

    Just to be clear, personally I like both products and actually am using vista a lot now with the latest build. So I don’t think I was biased in the sense that I had a preference for office 2007 over Vista.

  18. Robert,
    I showed Vista build 5342 and Microsoft office 2007 TR1 to a few people from university yesterday that came over for dinner. Basically the upshot is they found no real reason to upgrade to vista. I suspect MS in real trouble here as even though I was cycling through a number of vista features, the main message I got back was that is not that much different to XP and they couldn’t see a compelling reason to upgrade. It was basically yeah that’s nice, but…

    Office 2007 was met with a very different response. This was like when is it coming out, wow this is cool, yeah I can see how this would make my work easier etc…. Just showing them live preview had them immediately seeing the benefits. When I showed them some new referencing features that are pertinent to the psychology department, e.g. APA referencing they found that extremely useful. Same with excel and PowerPoint the feedback was very positive, they loved the ribbon and galleries in particular but really see a lot of value in how this would help them be more productive.

    One of the big differences in their minds was that Office 2007 does not look like previous versions of Office, where as vista looked similar to XP in their minds, despite the full aero experience etc… I think there is an undelying psychology there that if it looks different then it is, but if it doesnt look all that different then its not. I think MS will need to address this psychological impression on users somehow, but thats just my opinion and yeah i know my opinion doesnt amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

    Three people is hardly a great gauge to assess future sales I know, but I did find the reactions quite interesting. Particularly so because these were not high end techies but not computer illiterate by any means. More like your average user.

    What I got out of all that, was that three people were sold on office and will buy it when available and will probably push the uni to upgrade to office 2007, but they won’t buy Vista.

    Just to be clear, personally I like both products and actually am using vista a lot now with the latest build. So I don’t think I was biased in the sense that I had a preference for office 2007 over Vista.

  19. No matter how you spin it, I’ll assert you don’t need millions of lines of code to sort and filter tabular data. Excel 2007 is here to maintain an irrelevant cash cow. If .NET is so good, explain why Microsoft is not selling Excel lite, lean and mean software that does most of what Excel does with 5% of the code.

    If you are blown away by how many colors you can put in a pie chart, then I’m just sorry about you.

  20. No matter how you spin it, I’ll assert you don’t need millions of lines of code to sort and filter tabular data. Excel 2007 is here to maintain an irrelevant cash cow. If .NET is so good, explain why Microsoft is not selling Excel lite, lean and mean software that does most of what Excel does with 5% of the code.

    If you are blown away by how many colors you can put in a pie chart, then I’m just sorry about you.

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