LotusLive Symphony, Google Docs, Office 365
In school my gentlemen are supposed to use Google Docs, I'm testing LotusLive Symphony at work and Microsoft just started Office 365. I will not (at least for now) compare features and functionality here. So all the large vendors seem to believe that "Cloud Office" is ready for prime time. It certainly highlights some trends and changes in our work culture. Here are my observations:
- The browser as primary interface is dominating (this is NOT about where the data comes from). While some cling to specialised eMail clients, the reality is HTML (I still would make the case for Lotus Expeditor but mostly to join HTML interface snippets that come from different places). Spolsky was right about The API War (and that is 7 years ago)
- We hardly write documents for print anymore (the only thing I print are routing slips for travel claims), so the notion of a page becomes less and less important
- The online editors take a "good enough" feature set approach which seems good enough for me (YMMV). Anyway my future favorite HTML based editors have different use and purposes
- They solve a very old problem that was highlighted first in About Face (the first book, out of print for a long time): Users don't want to bother about saving and locations. It would be subject to a comparison to see how the contestants fare.
- Since the output format is more likely electronic, print formatting options aren't that important anymore, but the capability to output to WIKI, Blog, websites and (my current favourite): eBooks.
- More and more important are versioning and collaborating up to the level of concurrent co-editing. All these has been traditionally been handled outside of the Office applications, so the interesting question: will we get back the component idea sported by OCX/ActiveX where one could embed office components in custom applications, but now with web standards (didn't take off before)
- Meta data handling is still a little thin
- OneUI (pun intended): I don't want to go back and forth between different applications that do the same thing. So if I switch to a HTML based editor I want to do that wholesale. Just give me a local server with the editor on it. And I expect it to update itself. Also don't bother me locally with files and directories to look after (unless I want to), just sync them properly
- Private cloud support: A lot of documents I'd rather NOT store on a US based server regardless how much I trust my vendor, so the application should work in my own data center too
- Wiki style version control: I don't want to save whatever.v1, whatever.v2whatever.v3, whatever.v4. GIT and Wave know how to do versioning and I expect a decent UI to show the history
- Interoperability: Can I invite external parties to one document (and its related actions)?
- Deep reuse: can I mix sides or cell ranges from multiple sources either by copying or subscribing (so changes there are reflected in my doc too)