I know Robert Scoble thinks Office is still not dead, but his excitement about the Office 2010 tech preview should be taken with a large grain of salt. Of course, it was fun to be treated to an old-media style press barnstorm of the flogosphere, and the bells and whistles — poof, don’t need Photoshop, nor iMovie neither, and how about those browser features, cool — certainly will play well in the enterprise. But you need a passport, pardon the expression, to determine what web features are allowed from app to app. Sorry, Web User, you are in a Word document and do not have permission to collaborate in the browser. What a pile of “Our customers don’t want that feature” that is.
If that was the only thing separating Office 2010 from the brass ring currently reserved for Windows 7, Microsoft could call it a good day’s work and relax. O2010 certainly does provide some pressure points for Google Apps to ponder, but the one thing that would really sting Google’s hide is apparently nowhere to be seen. Silverlight Office is still MIA, and that’s no surprise. After all, we’re not supposed to realize SIlverlight is already the new Office. Once micromessaging apps appear in Silverlight, we’ll wake up like we are about realtime.
With Silverlight 3.0 released, 6 million .Net developers can now port their code to Silverlight and embed their apps on the desktop. That’s the WIndows/Mac desktop. As Servers and Tools chief Bob Muglia told me a few weeks ago (video coming soon), Novell’s Moonlight Linux project is closing the delta between Silverlight releases. But look at the dynamics of the Twitter client market, where Adobe AIR apps broke out of the pack early (Twhirl, TweetDeck), and you’ll see why Silverlight 3 will capture a healthy segment of the Office clone market.
Just as Seesmic Desktop’s new web client consolidates rich features with server side personalization, so too does O2010 start down the same road with Office. But not on the Mac, where ironically (no, its not ironic) all the media lives. So as much as I admire the tough love Microsoft is showing for Office-is-dead, they are priming the pump for collab-Office functionality that works cross-platform with richness. As much as Google wants to sell us HTML 5, they are stuck figuring out how to pay for H.264 while HTML 5 goes begging for a patent trapless video codec.
Meanwhile, video is going berserk on the network, thanks to the iPhone 3GS and live streaming video. YouTube is perfectly positioned as a repository, with H.264 working seamlessly on the iPhone and in Silverlight 3. It’s the real standard, but not in HTML 5. In effect, Silverlight is the analog container to iPhone 3 OS. On the phone, H.264. On the desktop, H.264. In Google land, it’s still Flash on the desktop. A minor speed bump, but a bump none the less.
What will Silverlight Office have? Well, for one, it will have O2010, the web apps. Embedded in the Silverlight container. Think that enterprisey .Net developers aren’t going to write bridging code to add realtime collaboration features to extend the quarantined O2010 desktop functions back in? Who’s gonna stop them? Microsoft trying to slow down third party apps will make Twitter rate-limiting look warm and cuddly. What happens when Zoho or even the Google Apps enterprise teams start writing connectors to the quarantined features of the 0210 web inmates.
ANd then the hole so big we’ll all be driving trucks through: the micro-messaging apps that will suck the lifeblood out of email and IM just like they’re doing to RSS. When the pubsubhubub boys get through with their march across Google Reader, Feedburner, SUP, WordPress, TypePad, and every other ping server still creaking along, it won’t make much sense to have yet another version of content stripped of business model, comments, and analytics. At that point, Silverlight Office will officially be uncrated, upsold like iPhone 3.0 game updates, and autoupdated to all who want to live in the future today.
Steve Ballmer had it right when he said developers, developers, developers. That’s why Bob Muglia owns Silverlight as part of his Servers and Tools charter, and that’s why he answered the SIlverlight Office questions this way:
What I think you’ll see over time is major parts of Microsoft applications beginning to incorporate Silverlight into their experience. If you look at, for example, the Web companions that Office is doing, they do use Silverlight in a variety of instances. So, we’re seeing that being used there. We’ll begin to see Bing and MSN and our online properties begin to adopt Silverlight inside the set of things that they do. We already see some of that in a limited form in Windows Live.
In other words, yes. Silverlight Office just went into Tech Preview. And just as Google Wave was released early to get it into the hands of developers, so too is O2010 getting Silverlight Office into the hands of .Net developers. Developers who can make money right now extending O2010 Web edition with Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and other social streams. Makes you wonder why Hailstorm architect Mark Lucovsky left Google to join VMWare and former Softie Paul Mauritz. Maybe he doesn’t feel like waiting around for HTML5. Or Office 2020 either.