Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The end of the "document" age

The prediction
Gartner is predicting the end of the "document" age. Finally!
I'm waiting for this to happen since years ago.
They say "Managing Users' Transition from File-Orientation to Web 2.0 Approach Will Be a Major Challenge" while it should not be so.
The (painful?) transition
I imagine that Gartner interviewed people working in offices and asked them "What do you prefer, wiki-like or file-based documents?" and got honest answers biased by the prior experience of those who asked and those who answered.
Office is enough painful so that nobody wants to switch, not even to a free option like OpenOffice, after all that whining about its cost. This is so because nobody wants to go again through such a painful training experience. Remember having had an experience like this?
The choices
Both choices, Office and Wikis, are painful.
Office because of its ancient design that MS does not want to change because they are locked in because they have so many million users locked in, reluctant to open their wings and fly away because they are afraid of more pain.
Open your wings and fly away
Wikis are, well, wikis. Limited in their capabilities, providing almost a single format for everything, most of the times lacking WYSIWYG capabilities. Geeks can grok Wikis, just another simple language to master, but normal people does not: they have more interesting things to think about.
But change happens
Change happens, and very quickly when the conditions are met. See, for example, Gmail (It seems I always pull the same example!).
Honestly, when web mail was as it was before Gmail, if you were interviewed by Gartner about a choice between desktop email and webmail, what would you have answered? Yes, you would have chosen desktop mail, wholeheartedly.
But Gmail reared and you changed your mind, didn´t you?
So it's about Google Docs ...
Actually, no. Not at all.
Google Docs is a straight copy of the Office UI and thus is has many of the issues Office has.
It has two good points: it´s online and it's collaborative. Unlike Office + Sharepoint, for example, that define "collaboration" as successive offline solo steps.
And Docs has a lot of issues of their own. I will not blog any more about all those bloopers because I don't have that much free time, and I want to blog about positive ideas, but trust me that Docs deserves a sound revision.
So what?
In future posts I will clarify what´s wrong about the "documents" and will sketch my take on the Office replacement, the one that will work, adopted with viral frenzy. Like Gmail was

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