I’m sure you’ve seen that Microsoft announced it will be bringing a free version of Office to the web. It looks like that may actually still be a year out, but nevertheless it’s got me thinking about whether I’ll be a customer.
Google Docs is great but let’s face it, the best part about it is plain and simple: It groks .docs (and xls and whatever else). If it didn’t… I imagine I might have a few docs out there — some random things people “shared” with me and what not, but add in the ability to handle .doc files and it becomes an essential tool for anyone lacking a copy of Office.
So, Microsoft’s announcement that Office will be available FREE online is a Goog Docs killer, right? … nah. I really think it would be but the thing about “Free online Office” is… it’s only free if you’re already paying… and while 400M people are — YOU, my friend, are not.
So, what will it take for this to be a success amongst the 2 groups of people I care about? Let’s label them (1) Me and (2) My Uncle Rob.
I love having things online and everything that goes along with it, but… gotta be free. Google’s online offerings are far from having perfect interfaces, but as any good 36-signals-following kid will tell you: free + simple = winner. I just can’t justify paying $50/yr (to make up a number) to have Word online. I know it’s $4 a month… but sorry: I’m out.
Uncle Rob doesn’t really get the whole online thing. That’s not to say he doesn’t use/like technology. or that he doesn’t like his Y! Mail and playing some online Euchre. It literally means: he doesn’t know what it means to have documents hosted online. If you give him Office online, he’s going to wonder why he can’t go to his harddrive to copy all his files to his fancy new flash drive.
But here’s the thing: he wants Office. He doesn’t want something that can read and write doc files via “Save As” (or even worse “Export As”. He just wants it to work – and look like the thing he uses at work. THIS is why this whole plan may work.
So, what will it take to make me recommend it to him? … gotta be free. If he has to pay $50/year — no question about it: I’m telling him to have his kid buy him the $150 Student copy for his own machine. It’ll be easier for him to understand and it doesn’t force him to send all his Uncle-Robby-Friends “share links” or use that pesky “Export As”. If the prices are even close (and they really are), it’s the obvious choice for him.
Maybe they’ll figure these things out? … or maybe they won’t AND the interface will suck. It’ll be interesting to see how things look when we actually get closer to the release.