So after all the rumours of the weekend, which if you’ve been following them have pointed to a big announcement from Microsoft regarding online office productivity and possibly moving their entire office suite into the cloud, an announcement came from Redmond yesterday.

However, it wasn’t what was expected, in fact it was much weaker and no threat to any existing players.

They’ve announced the launch of a beta of Exchange Online and SharePoint Online is a definite move towards software plus services.

It’s interesting none the less as this comes right after Google Sites who are a contender for those looking for a simple online collaboration tool to build intranet/extranets with. SharePoint is much more full featured and as such much more suited to large enterprises.

We’ll have to wait and see whether anything else comes out this week…


Nicholas Carr (former exec editor of the Harvard Business Review) has just posted a rumour on his blog that Microsoft may be planning to announce a move to push it’s applications into the cloud. It’s something that’s been expected but there hasn’t been any rumours that it’s impending for ages. Moving to web access for apps is a natural thing for Microsoft to do soon and could be huge!

Nicholas is highly respected (I’ve been a fan of his FT and Guardian articles for ages) and even if the rumour isn’t true it most likely does mean some kind of announcement is coming soon.

It’s been a while since Zoho announced their offline capabilities using Google Gears (back in August in fact). At the time I blogged about their announcement of offline read capability with the write functionality coming in a matter of weeks.

Well, they’ve now announced full offline functionality. Still using Google Gears the feature will allow you to finish off that document while disconnected from the web and then synchronise changes when you connect again.

The functionality is only available for Zoho Writer at the moment, but I’d hope to see it rolled out across their suite of products soon.

Interestingly, Zoho have also spotted the announcements about Live Documents. They’ve responded with a post on their blog about the revenue claims made by Sabeer Bhatia.

It’s going to be interesting in the online office market. I still think Google may have something up their sleeves which could make them dominant, but who do you think will be the winners?

A new entrant has launched in the online office product arena. This latest release into the office 2.0 world comes from someone with a heritage in making very succesful web apps. The chairman is none other than Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of the hugely popular Hotmail. Sabeer sold Hotmail to Microsoft in 1997 for $400M, so he definitely knows what he’s doing.

Anyway, I became aware of this thanks to an article in the Times.

Interesting that they have taken the shrewd step of using the interface of Microsoft Office for their product. One of the key issues with other online office products such as Google Apps is the difficulty ordinary users have in getting used to a new interface. Live Documents promises to look and feel just like MS Office and even better it has a software plug-in so that you can continue to use your desktop software and still get the best of the online service.

With everything that is being said about Live Documents in the blogosphere it seems this could be really big with the right PR.

I’m so pleased that someone has come along and shown the right approach to online productivity. Getting both online and offline functionality with real time synchronisation and integration with desktop software in a free service has got to be a big draw. The 100mb storage limit is a little low but I’d expect that to rise if they want to compete with the established players such as Google.

Webpro News has a sneak peek at Microsoft Office Live Workspace available on their site. The screenshots look great to me and it has a typically Microsoft Office interface which will surely work in their favour.

It will let you store documents online, view them, share them and make use of collaboration tools. However, at this stage I see no evidence of being able to edit them in the browser and it appears to purely be an online complement to the desktop applications.

Surely being able to edit and create documents without the need for access to MS Office on a PC has to come next, along with tools to synchronise the documents both ways. Otherwise this is purely a glorified storage area and won’t compete with other online office 2.0 offerings.

Productivity is go!

October 16, 2007

Or at least it will be soon…

For ages I’ve been waiting for some offline functionality to arrive for Google Docs to allow me to work offline on spreadsheets and documents and then work online on them later, keeping them synchronised. I’ve been expecting this to arrive from Google in the form of a Gears application but it seems like everyone is dying to beat them to the launch.

Docsyncer is in private beta at the moment and promises full on/offline synchronisation between your Microsoft Office documents and Google Docs. Docsyncer will run quietly in the background on your PC and upload (and download) any changes made to documents in either environment (desktop or online).

This is fantastic news! I can’t wait to try it, being an avid user of Google Docs this will aid my productivity hugely! How long Docsyncer will remain an independent company and not just another part of Google is anyones guess…

Wow! Sometimes a new product launches that really captures the imagination. Today I’ve come across a software product that I could really use! It would instantly fill a requirement I have that would make my life easier and more productive, and thats something it’s very rare to say about software these days!

Splashtop is an instant access desktop environment for web browsing. Now my laptop is bloated (time to get a new one) and can take an age to boot especially when connected to the network. What I really need is a way to access key applications quickly without having to wait for the horrendous Windows boot experience to finish. Splashtop cures that straight away!

The promise is (as I haven’t got a copy to try so I’m going on trust) that within seconds of switching on a PC you’re presented with a screen that allows you to access web browsing and Skype straight away. You don’t even need to load the OS at all!

It sounds amazing! Currently only supporting their own web browser and Skype but sure to add more in time it could become my weapon of choice for quick access to my digital life. See the video below for a demo:

Now that looks great doesn’t it?

But imagine this for a moment… Splashtop do a deal with a decent browser (eg. Mozilla), not saying that theirs is no good but I haven’t tried it yet, and suddenly you have access to all your online apps. I use Gmail for email, Google Docs and Apps for office tools, Basecamp for project management and many other online apps. So I don’t really need Windows or MS Office anymore. So I don’t really need my OS (yes I know, I should be on Linux but I’m lazy…). With a product like Splashtop I can access all of this instantly with no boot up time. Great for when you really need to grab something quick or check emails on the go. The only thing I need to know is quite how you’d connect to the web if the OS hasn’t booted???

So, in conclusion… This could be really big and it could also get snapped up quick by someone such as Google as it would make a great addition to the stable and be one in the eye for Microsoft all at once!