At ZDNet, Dan Farber interviews Antoine LeBlond, Microsoft’s “corporate vice president of Office Productivity Applications, who oversees the design, development and testing of Microsoft Office” and reports Microsoft’s LeBlond: No need for an MS Web Office:
On the subject of developing a suite of Web productivity apps, LeBlond doesn’t see any demand coming from customers. He described Web apps as reduced functionality versions of the Microsoft productivity applications they have been using for years, and said that customers are not actively asking for them. He noted that Web-based productivity apps and competitors to Microsoft Office, such as OpenOffice.org, have been around for a while as well as AJAX-related technologies.
“No one ever self identifies as the person who only needs the reduced functionality….The truth is that there have been low or reduced functionality versions of all of our products for years and years, and they really don’t get very much traction,” LeBlond said. “That clearly points to the fact there really isn’t much demand.”
I asked LeBlond if he thought an inflection point had been reached, with more sophisticated use of AJAX and other technologies to more closely replicate the rich client experience, and if Microsoft would build lightweight Office applications (what LeBlond calls “reduction functionality” apps, which says a lot about Microsoft’s perspective on the subject) for users who don’t need the full richness of Microsoft Office.
His answer was no. “The need for functionality and what we are trying to do with the software doesn’t change because of new technologies that are available,” LeBlond said. He pointed to the spreadsheet size limits as an example of the kind problem users will run into with Web-based apps.
I also asked LeBlond if Google’s foray into productivity applications is of any concern to Microsoft. His response: “That’s not what keeps me up at night,” he said.
As I mentioned the other day, I’d given up on seeing any Web-based version of Office and taking LeBlond’s comments at face value, Office Live seems destined to remain a warmed over bCentral.