Microsoft Word ‘won’t survive in age of document collaboration’

App Dev and SOA

by Joe Curtis| 09 May 2014

Collaboration firm Hornbill dismisses Office products as “relics of the past”.

Microsoft Office documents are "relics of the past" that will grow extinct as businesses increasingly turn to file-sharing tools, it is claimed.

Business collaboration firm Hornbill has launched its very own app store to distribute SaaS versions of its on-premise products aimed at IT services management, customer management and document management.

And CEO Gerry Sweeney has predicted that collaborative approaches to documents over PCs, mobiles and tablets will come to replace traditional Office-esque software, despite moves from Microsoft to open up to devices such as the iPad.

Sweeney told CBR: "The monolithic Office document type things are relics of the past. Documents have to be more collaborative.

"Ultimately I can't see how Word documents in their current form are going to survive. It's going to become the WordPerfect [Corel word processing software first released in 1989] of the 21st century."

The company's own Document Manager, Service Manager and Customer Manager apps have learned from the social approach of Twitter and Facebook, added Sweeney.

He pointed to the CRM app, which incorporates all news about an individual or organisation a salesperson might be pitching to into a newsfeed, making updates easier to find and follow.

Hornbill document manager

However, Sweeney admitted the firm's concept of one person 'owning' a document in Document Manager - where one person retains overall responsibility for the file - has proved to be a "love or hate thing" among customers.

But his comments echo those of ex-Facebook CTO Bret Taylor, whose new collaboration app, Quip, also does away with traditional Word features to rethink documents in the age of a more social brand of IT.

Quip features the ability to 'like' comments and edits to a piece of work, and Taylor backed it to win in the long run against Office.

Analyst house 451 predicted earlier this year that software and devices will reflect new social ways of working from 2016.

It added that come 2020, "the term 'social business' will gradually fade and eventually be subjugated because all such social capabilities will have become commonplace".

While Hornbill's Document Manager can currently only support files uploaded to it, Sweeney plans to add the capability to edit and create documents within the app, just like Google Docs.

Perhaps the most telling sign for the future of workplace software and devices is what mobile operating systems Hornbill has developed its apps for: currently only iOS, with Android versions in the works.

Windows support isn't even on the horizon at the moment, according to Sweeney.

"It's a huge investment for us to make and right now the take up of [Windows Phone] mobile devices in comparison to Android and iPhone don't seem to justify it," he said.

The firm plans to expand on its current three app total by building bespoke apps for customers that agree to part-fund development, then sharing the revenue when the apps appear in the store.

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