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Is Microsoft Office Bleeding?

At some point back in the late '90s -- we're thinking 1998 or so -- Quark put out an acquisition bid for competitor Adobe. Adobe was struggling a bit at the time, and although Quark's bid ultimately (and obviously) failed, there were rumors that Adobe might be ripe for the picking.

Your editor covered the story for a different publication (again, obviously, as RCP didn't exist back then) and wrote some snappy prose, we'd like to say. But one competitor -- we honestly don't remember who, but please step forward if you're out there -- won the battle for best lede (first sentence) in an online story about the whole Quark-Adobe matter. He wrote: "When blood is in the water, sharks will gather."

Adobe avoided the Quark shark and went on to (more) great things. But the shark metaphor struck us today when we read about new competition for Microsoft Office from IBM and...well, Adobe, actually.

Supposedly, Office is bleeding a bit. We keep reading suggestions around the Web that Office's money-making parade is about to get rained on by the cloud-based applications coming out of Google and now IBM and Adobe. Microsoft, meanwhile, still doesn't have a true hosted version of Office on offer, although Redmond seems to be working on something kind of, sort of similar-ish.

As we've said here before, we're not so convinced that Office is bleeding or that it'll be all that easy to give up, even if the competition offers applications for free. A lot of companies have a lot of investment in Office both in terms of development and basic user familiarity, and anybody who thinks it's easy to get users to change their everyday habits should hear some of the more harrowing tales of enterprise resource planning implementations. People like what they know. Plus, hosted anything is still a proposition rife with potential pitfalls in the enterprise.

Still, we're always fans of lighter, cheaper software here, and if Google, IBM and Adobe can push Microsoft to create a true hosted version of Office or at least something a bit less expensive and not so cumbersome, great. We're just not convinced that the would-be sharks are smelling any blood yet, much less sinking their teeth into the Office franchise.

Is the future of Microsoft Office -- and all software -- something that's online for free? Answer at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 06/04/2008 at 1:22 PM


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