But this confuses me. Is the implication that people are not going to
buy a new version of any type of office suite software (except when they
buy new machines), or is it that people will pay money to "downgrade"
their office suites (the opposite of paying for an "upgrade")? I'm not
seeing a clear business strategy for Microsoft to migrate from fat to
thin software and keep everyone compatible with everyone else. Or is
this one of those things that, as they say, puts the "backwards" in
------------ included article:
Let me get the good news out of the way first. Microsoft's Office 97 is
a big improvement. Most people should upgrade. The new version includes
valuable enhancements. A new mail/contacts/scheduling tool called
Outlook. A new drawing module. Improved help. Greater programmability.
Better Internet connectivity. Most of all, the new version corrects the
shortcomings of Office 95. As PC Week puts it, "Office 97 gives users
what the company should have provided more than a year ago, when it
shipped Office 95 on the heels of Windows 95."
But this is the last time Microsoft will get away with it. This is the
last time it will successfully foist a fat, monstrous monolithic
mega-upgrade on us. The world is changing, and Office has to change
with it. Driving this change are three irresistible trends.
Jenny Craig Syndrome. Users want to slim down. They use only one or two
of the applications in today's fat suites. And only 10% of the features.
When you are already ignoring hundreds of features, it's hard to get
excited about an upgrade with hundreds more. The market wants slimmer
software that watches what you do, learns from your actions, and helps
you complete your tasks.
Building Block Syndrome. The Internet has people thinking about breaking
suites into stand-alone components, building blocks that can be
reassembled as needed. Lotus, Corel and Microsoft all have
"componentized" Web suites in the works.
Japanese Auto Syndrome. During the 50s and 60s, American automakers used
planned obsolescence to "encourage" customers to buy a new car each
year. They didn't make long-lasting products because they didn't have
to. Then the Japanese showed up with well-built cars that ran for years.
Several U.S. automakers nearly went out of business before they adjusted
to the idea of providing high-quality cars. Like American auto buyers of
old, software buyers are sick of relentless upgrades.
Next generation suites, I predict, won't look anything like Office 97.
Instead, they'll consist of a core "engine" or "dashboard" into which
you plug various components. Improvements will come in the form of new
modules. You'll no longer need to throw everything out and start over
again if you want just one of the new enhancements. Instead, you'll
merely plug in the new component and keep on computing.
Does this spell doom for Microsoft and its suite? Not necessarily. I
think Microsoft will be one of the companies that pioneers a new kind of
software. They'd better. This is the last time they'll get away with
bloatware like Office 97.
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how
they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really
do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a
while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had
and synthesize new things.
-- Steve Jobs