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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cloud fails to capture

Cloud computing may be the in-thing, but if early fanfare is to go by, don't play the requiem music for enterprise software just yet. Those folks with their heads in the clouds about online productivity tools doing serious damage to Microsoft's Office got a reality check recently -- some stats showing just how far away that may be.
A sampling of U.S. PC users by research outfit NPD found that 73% had never even heard of Google Docs, the search sovereign's collaborative word-processing tool, or any other manifestations of cloud computing. An additional 21 percent had heard of such things, but never tried them. And by the time you get down to those who use the online tools often and to the exclusion of a desktop suite, you have to squint to see the 0.3 percent.

Those numbers tempted some to rush out a declaration that the concept of Web 2.0 office suite was DOA. "The scant adoption makes some sense of Microsoft's Office Live Workspace, which went into broad beta last week. The service clearly is designed to be an adjunct to Office desktop software rather than a Web-based alternative," writes Joe Wilcox. "If NPD's numbers are indicative of real-world usage, Microsoft hasn't much to worry from Google Docs and Spreadsheets or other online alternatives. Maybe too many people make too much about the Web 2.0 threat to Office."

Or maybe too many people made too much of it too early. "We're in the early stages of the 'hybrid phase' of personal productivity applications, when most people will use Web apps to extend rather than replace their old Office apps," writes Nick Carr. "This phase will play out over a number of years as the Web technologies mature, at which point it will become natural to use purely Web-based apps (with, probably, continued local caching of data and program code). ... Once people get used to using the online apps at home or at school, they may well find the idea of buying an expensive piece of software, installing it on their hard drive, and regularly patching and updating it to be awfully old-fashioned. That's the scenario that should be of greatest immediate concern to Microsoft, and it's a scenario that is beginning to play out, even if the numbers aren't yet huge."

But can Enterprise suites get smug and choose to be un-sexy…? Hardly. Here’s to their tomorrow.

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