google docs

7 Reasons Microsoft should release a Cloud version of Office

In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft Office 2010 will be web based. Yeay!

Google Docs and Microsoft Office

However, they are still going to be charging money for this. Boo!

Microsoft could get a lot of people using Bing if they simply made a cloud version of Office. Sound like a bad fiscal decission? It’s not! Here’s why:

1) Not everyone needs everything that comes with the full version of office anyway. A simple version of Word and Excel would be enough to make most people happy. If they don’t like it, they can buy the full version.

2) PowerPoint is useless to the average user. However, you could retool it so people can create presentations out of their photos, videos, music, narration, and share it on Microsoft Video. If it’s easy to use, a lot more people would create, and you’d have a wealth of fresh, new, common use content on your other platform. (As well as giving people something else to share with your new Hotmail.)

3) You could add more to the sale version of Office, to make it more enticing. Certainly a Microsoft Money for Small Business on Office would help to get more people using both. If people need a heftier version of Office for college or a small business, then they’ll pay for it. Everyone else who just needs to write a quick letter can do it on their site.

4) If you can build dominance with a free version of Office, you can take an important shot at Google Docs, which more and more people are using who don’t want to pay for the full version of Office. The problem with Docs is it doesn’t have the tools and usability people are already used to with Office. The best way to compete with Google is to offer people what they already know.

5) Google Docs kills office on price, sharing and online storage of documents. Obviously, a competing could version would take care of the price advantage. Including sharing and online storage would be simple to add, and level the playing field against Google.

6) Why would Microsoft care to compete with Google Docs? Because it keeps some people using Google Search. If Office was widely available as a component of Bing, don’t you think there would be a LOT more people using that?

Microsoft would make their money back – in advertising. Google has no problem paying the bills each month because they have hoards of traffic. If Bing sacrificed the small percentage of income they get from households that just need a copy of word, and exchanged it for the ad revenue they’d get from all those people using their site, they’d make all that cash back. Seriously.

7) Finally, if Microsoft doesn’t, Google will own the market on free desktop publishing with Docs. It’s been growing slowly, but as more and more people balk at the idea of paying for Office when they can get the simple jobs done with Docs, more will. Office can jump into the fight any time – but the longer they wait, the more people will just get used to using Docs, and they’ll lose the advantage they have now of being the most familiar program.

That’s all of the reasons I can think of in one sitting – but I’m sure there’s more. I doubt Steve Ballmer will read this, but if you are Steve, seriously – you’ve got an Ace in the hole, and you need to play it.

Microsoft FINALLY relaunches Hotmail

I’ve always been a web mail junkie. It’s a weird thing to be into, but it was the first real “social” tool on the Internet. And when it became something that didn’t need to be tied to my service provider, and therefore my home computer, I was hooked.

Hotmail was one of the first services. (If you can remember seeing, “HoTMaiL” back then, you’re like me – old.) Microsoft eventually bought it, and frankly let it languish. I could never understand that – Yahoo! Mail took over and suddenly everyone had one, and then Gmail introduced a better service, so now it has become the defacto web mail service.

But tonight, without much fanfare, Hotmail has been redone. I don’t know why it took Microsoft so long to get around to it, but good for them for finally fixing it up. If they’re really serious about competing with Google, they need a web mail service that people are going to actually use.

One of the reasons Google is so dominant in search is the mail service. If you’re logged into a site that gives you your mail, you’re home. If you then need to search for something, you’re not going to jump off-site to use something else – you’re going to use whatever is available to there.

In my opinion, that’s one of the big reasons Yahoo! was the big deal in search, and why Google was after that. When Yahoo! was on top, a lot of other sites had e-mail as well. Yahoo! was just doing it better than anyone else. Google hooked people on their results when they were providing results for Yahoo! – but when they gave people a better web mail product, people made iGoogle their home instead of my.yahoo.com.

Hotmail Quick Add share bar

The biggest improvement is that they’ve made it much easier to deal with the most common attachments. There is a search bar to the right that lets you automatically attach photos, videos, movie times, restaurants, maps and business listings. It’s good thinking, frankly – people won’t have to pop open a new window to find content to add to their mails, and it gets people to use their search engine exclusively. Leave it to Microsoft to find a way to get people to use their sub-par product to the exclusion of everything else. (Anyone remember Netscape Navigator?)

They’ve also announced a coming connectivity download to connect Hotmail to Outlook. I find it hard to get excited about that. It feels like Microsoft still feels it’s all about desktop access. If you’ve used the Internet in the last three years, of course, you know it isn’t.

What would have REALLY impressed me is if they built a cloud version of Microsoft Office to open and edit documents that come as attachments. They could easily and almost immediately trounce Google Docs. Sure, there are a lot of people using Docs, me included. But everyone is familiar with Office already. If they created an on line version, it could offer people the tools they’re already familiar with, but include the sharing and online storage Google has.

Perhaps that will come later. I tend to doubt it, since they still make so much money selling Office to people every few years. But if they are serious about getting people to look at Hotmail and Bing as their new “home,” they do need to stop thinking about the desktop and keep building their web presence.