Future of MS Office

From Business Week: “[Microsoft’s] new Office would reach to anyone who used information, even if they didn’t create it. This meant new Microsoft products for such workers as pilots and nurses, factory workers and truck drivers. Microsoft figures there are about 117 million people in this country who fit the bill. It’s a bold strategy: To reach new customers, [Jeff] Raikes is pushing Office out of the office.”

The strategy:

To come up with winning ideas, Raikes is sizing up the world of business and searching Microsoft’s trove of technologies. He’s spending $80 million this year to hire 400 sales advisers who will practically live with corporate customers and advise them on how they can get more out of the software Microsoft already makes. He has another team spotting the “white spaces” between current product categories for which all-new programs can be invented. Meanwhile, Raikes is testing the company’s latest innovations in his new Center for Information Work, a prototype of what he believes offices will look like in the future.

For the here and now, Raikes has launched three initiatives–all of which are expected to start bearing fruit in coming months. First, he moved to expand into a new market for Microsoft: run-the-business applications for small and midsize businesses. These are packages that extend from accounting to inventories and payroll programs. Over the next five years, he plans to spend $3 billion on Office, including specialized versions for small business, and products in such areas as business intelligence, which helps workers make sense of all the data their companies gather. Raikes’s vision even extends to new machines. On Nov. 7, he’ll launch software for the soon-to-be introduced Tablet PC, a laptop with a screen on which users can scrawl handwritten notes that they can store and easily locate later.

To take on MS Office in the world’s emerging markets (the developed markets game for an Office alternative is pretty much over), we need to think along the following lines:
– use OpenOffice, which is free and open source. Another advantage: it stores files in XML.
– leverage the OpenOffice components separately. For example, use Write as the default writing environment – it comes with a spell-checker, and use Calc (the spreadsheet) as a computational engine.
– create an alternative to the desktop a la Digital Dashboard (this is my Tech Talk series this week)
– get people to think weblogs and RSS Aggregators for the way they manage and route information

Raikes Office

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.