When Written: Aug 2011
Many moons ago in this article I suggested that desktop applications might eventually be replaced by web based applications. At the time this seemed farfetched but we started to see the first of these in Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access, a very early implementation of AJAX and the possibilities started to be seen. Products like Google Docs came along and the possibility of creating business documents out on the ‘Cloud’ before it became known as that.
Most of these web based products were poor relations to their feature rich desktop cousins but things steadily improved. Now we have Office 365 in which Word, Excel, PowerPoint, One Note and SharePoint are all made available on the ‘Cloud’ via the web browser. Microsoft should be congratulated on this implementation; the web based versions are very similar to their desktop counterparts, not everything of course but for most users there is enough functionality and that with the ease of collaboration could make Office 365 the idea solution.
Microsoft intends to sell Office 365 via a subscription model and by delivering software this way at a stroke they eliminate piracy of their products, although if this is the way forward I for one will miss the previous capabilities of macro writing to automate tasks. Many of us cut our Windows teeth on writing such tasks to ease work processes and even made money from the more complicated projects. The ability to write code to automate the office suite in a more complete way than just recording key strokes was one of the most powerful features of Office. I would guess the lack of a macro language is for security reasons but the omission of it is a serious loss to power users.
With Microsoft producing Office365 it is also very difficult for other companies like http://hypernumbers.com to compete as not only does their product have to be better but also their web infrastructure has to be up to the job, Microsoft has Azure and it is generally reckoned to be a very competent Cloud offering. In order to offer a competitive product Hypernumber’s spreadsheet has some interesting extras. It is particularly powerful in combining large numbers of collaborative spreadsheets together and then producing reports from them. The number of spreadsheets involved can be in excess of a thousand and this gives an inkling of the power of the system.
This is a task that Office 365 cannot currently achieve. Hypernumber has been built from the ground up using the Erlang programming language which is specific for Cloud applications and because of this can handle two million connections at any one time so should scale nicely. If you need this sort of power from your collaborative spreadsheet solution then it is certainly worth a look. However for most businesses I do wonder if Office 365 is not a better value option?
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton