What is Office 2.0?

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The question put to me a few days ago by a polite friend, upon hearing that I was going to an Office 2.0 conference, was simple: “What’s Office 2.0?” My equally respectful reply was: I really don’t know. This conference has done little to change that, which frankly is what I expected. Much as I can with its etymological progenitor, Web 2.0, I can tell you (probably) what Office 2.0 is not, but pinning down just what it is would be beyond my limited capabilities.

From a superficial level, the answer seems obvious: Office 2.0 is merely the next evolution of the office space. But that’s like saying that video is the next evolution of online advertising; it well may be true, it but doesn’t provide us with much in the way of specifics. The question that I think people need to ask themselves, however, is whether or not that really matters.

As some of you know having spoken with me on the subject, I have little patience for philosophical discussions of what Web 2.0 really means. When pressed on the subject, I usually just point to properties like del.icio.us and say, “That is Web 2.0.” Likewise, I’m not terribly concerned with creating strict textual definitions of what Office 2.0 is, as long as I can credibly cite examples that exhibit the tendencies of a “next generation” office platform. As this show amply demonstrates, that part’s easy. Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Joyent, Zoho, and so on? Very Office 2.0. Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org? Office 1.0. Q.E.D.

While the question of what Office 2.0 is doesn’t really keep me up at night, however, what it means absolutely does. We have a unique view on the technologies, because we’re not merely covering analysts but avid users. And what’s obvious to me, both as an analyst and a user, is that Office 2.0 has strengths for every weakness, and weaknesses for every strength.

Given the fact that office software touches just about everyone in some capacity, it’s unsurprising that opinions on what Office 2.0 portends abound. There are the usual conservatives, contending that Microsoft’s dominance will continue unabated, fueled by Office 2.0 technical limitations and shielded by enterprise intertia and indifference. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who – rhetorically anyway – believe that Office is Dead. The truth, in my view, is to be found where it always is: somewhere in the middle.

Like some of the panelists today, I’m a believer that Office 2.0 is actually going to look more like Office 3.0 – as calculated from the simple equation of Office 1.0 + Office 2.0. Existing solutions will do just that for the foreseeable future, but a significant and growing portion of authoring behaviors will be shifted towards applications that are a better fit. Office 1.0 and Office 2.0 then, would be best served by finding ways to work together than trying to wipe each other out.

Of course that’s precisely what is most unlikely to happen, but one can hope.


  1. Hi, I am Cliff from EditGrid. Actually long before Google Docs and Spreadsheets came out, EditGrid is already there competing the spreadsheet market with Google spreadsheets, up till now, it still support more languages, and many features than Google, like charts, publish spreadsheet to blog, remote stockquote and forex or even regularly fetch data from web to your own spreadsheet. I invite you to give it a try.

  2. thx for the tip, Cliff. i will indeed give EditGrid a look.

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