back to article Should Microsoft merge Office into Windows - or snap it off?

Gartner research director Larry Cannell thinks Yammer gives Microsoft the impetus to "rethink Office". Cannell's point is that Microsoft needs to reshape Microsoft for the social age. He's right, but I don't think he goes nearly far enough. Microsoft Office is losing its relevance in a world that creates vast quantities of new …


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  1. Chemist

    What !

    "due to the volume of important data being generated by (sensors) and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook,"

    What !

    1. BigAndos

      Re: What !

      I think the author has read (or indeed, written) too many articles hyping up "Big Data"! There is a lot of data outside of "traditional" data formats (such as Office files) these days. However, I can't see my company starting to put its customer contracts into HTML format or on Facebook, for example.

    2. BlueGreen

      Re: What ! (@Chemist)

      Well I don't know, I think Matt's made a valid point in yet another well-judged article.

      Then again when they give me crayons to write with, I try to eat them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What ! (@Chemist)

        "Well I don't know, I think Matt's made a valid point in yet another well-judged article."

        A valid point about what ?

        1. Euripides Pants

          Re: What ! (@Chemist)

          ...eating crayons, obviously.

  2. Big_Ted

    Please god no...........

    Why would I want an OS that means I have to have office, facebook, twitter et al built in and using resources whe I never use those programs on my PC's.

    I use Docs for all i need to do at home so keep this b;loat away from me.

    This is only an acceptable choice for an "Enterprise" version of windows with it all built in and set to run as a VM on some server and dumb terminals on desks etc. Would also mean BYOD for all would be simpler and safer.

    1. Chet Mannly

      Re: Please god no...........

      "Why would I want an OS that means I have to have office, facebook, twitter et al built in and using resources whe I never use those programs on my PC's."

      Absolutely, not something you'd want. But if you were say a large company interested in data mining/profiling all their users to supplement their income, well that's different isn't it?

      But I'm completely with you - *I* don't want it, but its easy to see why Apple does and MS might...

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    'data' != valuable

    "a world that creates vast quantities of new data every day, but comparatively little of it in Microsoft Office file formats." - 90% of which is photos of drunken students and catz and 9% of which is server logs recording the adverts served to twitbook users.

    1. Tim 11

      Re: 'data' != valuable

      thank you for talking some sense.

      Of documents which business users actually use to go about their work, a large proportion of the most important are in Word (or written in Word and then published in PDF)

      1. Magnus_Pym

        Re: 'data' != valuable

        Of documents which business users actually use to go about their work, a large proportion is driven directly from the management system to PDF. Only the stuff that is typed, like contracts and research papers are in word and most of that is not published. Everything else is emailed. Straight Word Processing is becoming a niche market.

    2. Magister

      Re: 'data' != valuable

      You've hit a very important nail squarely on the head. The world may well be producing gazillions of bytes of data, but how much of that is actually of any real value to more than the person that created it. More importantly, how to separate the wheat from the chaff; if it's of no value or will never be used again, why spend billions on storing and manipulation?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: 'data' != valuable

        Most of that data isn't even valuable to the entity who created it!

        Even those enamoured of "big data" acknowledge this, hence most of the point of the big data tools is boiling down crazy amounts of data into tiny nibbles of potentially useful information.

        Even outside of that, a log file is useless >99.9% of the time, only becoming useful on rare occasions to figure out what went wrong.

        The useful stuff is in emails, the important stuff is generally in Word and Excel documents, maybe PDF-d once ready for publication.

        - It's very common to bash something out over IM and email, then "write it up" in Word.

        Back at the article - it doesn't matter whether MS want to merge Office and Windows together, because if they do that on the desktop they'll be immediately done for abuse of monopoly.

        1. Trevor 3


          'Back at the article - it doesn't matter whether MS want to merge Office and Windows together, because if they do that on the desktop they'll be immediately done for abuse of monopoly.'

          Exactly what I was thinking.

          Then we'll get a patch: Which office suite would you like?

          MS Office?





        2. Albert Hall

          Refresh my memory, willya

          Wasn't part of the "Seattlement" of the first anti-trust action that MS dictated to the Justice Department a self-imposed Chinese Wall separating the OS dev team from the apps teams? The one that a certain Justice Thomas Penfold Jackson was brought in to rubber stamp when the trial judge flatly refused to, I mean. Not being totally naive here, I'm curious if anyone understands how the subsequent course of MS' legal manoeuvring has played out in this regard.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: Refresh my memory, willya

            In a proper world it ought to. On the other hand, in a proper world the existence of that settlement would also have dictated immediate severance of IE from the OS and possible time in the pokey. Given that neither of those happened (at least in the US), the IE decision might take precedence over the prior decision. Also, the courts might decide that in the current iOS, Android, and MS environment, MS's market share no longer constitutes a monopoly.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    TIFKAM here we come!

    Main issue for merging Office and Windows is that although the true "operating system" has been invisible to many non-expert users for years now (other than as an application programme launcher) there's still a fair degree of stuff that isn't "productvity" related. Where are you going to put all the odds and sods that people think is the OS? I'm thinking the network setup, printers folder, file explorer, computer properties and so forth. You certainly could access this stuff via a dialogue or menu in an Office programme, but a more obvious place remains a control panel, accessed from a simplified programme launch which point I'm beginning to think that this tends to point to the widely reviled TIFKAM.

    You could be radical and try and do away with even a launcher, booting straight into an Office programme, although in practice we'd probably see the launcher function still there, relegated to a taskbar. Could certainly work for the horrible, bolted down corporate machines running a handful of programs, since these users have ever decreasing control of settings anyway, and if that's where the money is then this might fly. But would corporate customers pay the current licence fees for Windows and Office for a machine that nominally only has Office? Mind you, isn't this where Windows RT is heading as well?

    1. Thorsten

      Booting straight into Office?

      What nonsense is that?

      Booting straight into Emacs, that's all I need!

  5. Don Jefe


    The reason so much data is being created is because the vast majority of it is garbage. "Hey guys, the dog shit on the couch, she must be sick" accompanied by a picture.

    I've argued for over a decade that most people don't need a full featured computer and the tablet/big phone era seems to be proving I was correct. People who actually produce things with their computers need a full fat machine but 95% of people just use their computers to cruise the tubes and annoy their friends. I've received quite a few calls from friends who were updating their CV but didn't know how to adjust margins or create lists.

    MS Office is highly capable and can do much more than most people realize but those are the people that don't need it, hence the 'Starter' editions. Also I stopped listening to anything Gartner said in 2001, they really blow at their job.

  6. Buzzword

    Your article has zero relevance to the world of real companies, i.e. outside the Web 2.0 bubble. Viewing an Outlook contact's recent Facebook posts? Analysing Twitter posts in Excel? Get real. Nobody wants this stuff. They just want to get on with their work as efficiently and effectively as possible, and get home.

    1. Silverburn

      Agreed - given most companies ban access to farcebook etc at the web proxy, most of these web 2.0 features will just be unseable bloat.

      Not to mention the security concerns - it will make hardening the OS much...errrr....harder.

      My vote: leave it out, and start managing the frankly ridiculous bloat and addressing the counter-intuiative UI (eg Ribbon). And leave the OS to do OS things only.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      @Buzzword: absolutely true!

      The decline in education can be attributed to replacing hard knowledge (physics, synoptic history, geography etc) with fatuous soft "meta-knowledge" (imagine you're a photon, imagine you're a peasant in the middle ages, go down to the supermarket and find out where all the fruit comes from).

      The author of this article thinks the same thing should happen to data. Replace your accounts with an analysis of Twitter posts - then see how the auditors and shareholders like it.

      There's also a big difference between subscribing to social media, which has negligible business value of any kind, and analyzing it, which might have some business value, but only if you're a professional market researcher.

  7. Ashton Black

    Data value.

    I think the author confusing data values. That is the value to the corporation rather than an individual. A twitter feed, or facebook status is unlikely to have any value. Whereas a visio network diagram, simple access db of a client list or even just a doc with a business procedure written down, has inherent value. IMHO, Office as a distinct application layer, is here to stay.

    1. Chet Mannly

      Re: Data value.

      "A twitter feed, or facebook status is unlikely to have any value."

      Depends on the business. Marketing departments and almost all web businesses would rely on this info.

      But agreed, in engineering, government, finance et al this info is useless, and Office does a pretty good (if bloated) job.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please God NO !

    Windows carries enough around it's waistline without office being integrated.

  9. Keep Refrigerated


    The Windows version would be a seamless, end-to-end user experience that doesn't distinguish between the operating system and the essential apps that it runs.

    Just like they do with Internet Explorer... oh...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A general purpose operating system is supposed to be general purpose

    What you are suggesting would be a nightmare for content creators who rarely if ever use any part of MS Office - people like architects, artists, software engineers, etc.

  11. JDX Gold badge

    Hello Lawyers

    Hmmm... using a desktop monopoly to push your own office software. If MS aren't allowed to give me a free browser, this seems pretty unlikely.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Hello Lawyers

      First of all, Office brings in a large share of MS revenues and they can't give it away nor up the OS price that much. And sure, they will be sued the day after by OpenOffice & C. and you would get a "Office choice screen" too...

  12. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Although Windows and office are so entwined that some people think they come together already I'm sure if Office was integrated with Windows there would be a fair few lawsuits and possible more EU and even US monopoly investigations as this would no doubt be anti competitive. I know there aren't really any paid for office suite on Windows anymore but surely including MS office with Windows will kill any development of alternative office suites for Windows even free ones like libreoffice/openoffice.

    I know they have already bundles a cut down version with the surface but as there are hardly any of these around yet they can probably get away without any investigation but trying it with every windows version may come and back fire. And i don't want to live in a world where the only office choice is what MS are offering.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @mark 1 2

      "but surely including MS office with Windows will kill any development of alternative office suites for Windows even free ones like libreoffice/openoffice."

      Why? As it stands they're used by people who deliberately choose to use them. That'd be no different if Office came with/as part of Windows. Can't they compete apart from cost?

  13. jonathanb Silver badge

    Not really

    Work / Excel / Powerpoint / Access etc work just fine for me. Leave them alone.

    Outlook, yes maybe there is a case for Skype / Facebook / Twitter integration there.

    1. B4PJS

      Re: Not really

      Sorry, had to downvote you for using the dreaded "A" word.

      1. Risky

        Re: Not really

        And I'm sorry but I have to downvote you for being rude about Access.

        Just remember the real world alternative to Access is not a nice strategic Oracle/Sybase/SQL Server db. It's a database hidden in a huge excel file with pivots on pivots.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Not really

          And I'm sorry, but I'll have to downvote you for downvoting.

          Now someone do me!

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Oh come on, Access is useful

        It's perfectly adequate for prototyping DB applications, teaching the basics of relational databases, and for single-user databases - where it's orders of magnitude better than Excel.

        The issues arise when people forget it's just a prototype and try to build it up into a multi-user system instead of migrating it.

        That's when you get a monstrosity.

  14. The New Turtle

    95% of the increased data = junk

    Glad I'm not the only one who thought this. Outside of facebook, twatter and instagram there are still people doing real work, creating documents and spreadsheets with value who need a proper 'office' environment. By all means create some kind of cut down integrated word processing arrangement for those with nothing to do, but leave the productive office suite alone.

  15. Mage Silver badge


    Why do I read this meandering rubbish.

    1. Office built into Windows? Craziest idea ever.

    a. Bloat

    b. Cost

    c. Most people don't need Office

    d. Security

    e. Competition issues would make IE story look tame.

    2. Seemless?

    Such drivel. You have an OS, a GUI and Applications. Good design, ease of debugging etc means these 3 layers should be separate and swappable. Applications shouldn't try to do everything, but one kind of thing, so that they are easier to use, freer of bugs, smaller, faster, easier to design well. Sharing information and "Seemless" use between applications of data is not about a Monolithic system but about good modular design and open standards. Exchange can be realtime via TCP/IP local host sockets (extendible across a network), Named Pipes or persistent via open standards files (which need not be bulky XML).

    LESS should be bundled and integrated. About the ONLY thing that should be "bundled" with the OS is a lean DB engine for OS use and optionally for applications, with no clash or restriction on adding your own, so it should NOT use the default SQL ports. IBM thought this was a good idea 30 years ago. The "Registry" is an interface to to a bunch of separate files. It and Filesystem should have been using a real database since 1993.

    Yet another totally pointless Matt article. Is he trolling us?

  16. James Gosling

    That would be yet more anti-competitive behaviour...

    That would be yet more anti-competitive behavior which would end up with Microsoft in court again. When you bundle a product with the operating system that gives you an unfair competitive advantage over competitors products. Anyway the world really doesn't need Microsoft Office, Libre or Open Office is ideal and Free!

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: That would be yet more anti-competitive behaviour...

      Can't agree more. As an SME who only needs occasional use we have dumped MSOffice for LibreOffice as it's free (as in beer), unencumbered by licensing issues, cross platform and without ribbon (easier to work with on a casual basis). I would guess the same applies for many home/small business users, who have better things to do than fight the software. Big business is a different matter - who do MS want to sell to?

  17. AlexS
    Thumb Down

    Who cares.

  18. Wookie

    Not likely

    If Microsoft couldnt embed Windows Media Player or Internet Explorer without raising eyebrows from regulators and screams from competitors, how the hell will it be allowed to integrate its own office suite into the OS. Thats never going to be allowed on the desktop.

  19. Jonathan 29

    I have been using Office 2010 for a few years now, but happened to have to use Office XP last night to do a few things. I was honestly amazed at how fast it was and how easy everything was to find. I had totally forgotten what a nice clean interface it had that didn’t get in the way.

    My vote goes for keeping them completely separate and kicking the Office team from here till next Christmas until they release a proper touch friendly version for iOS and Android.

    1. thomanski

      Well, for Android there is Softmaker Office which so far seems to work brilliantly with .doc(x) and .xsl(x). Haven't tried PowerPoint. Hope I won't have to either.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    The whole article should have been written in past tense.

  21. IHateWearingATie

    Bizarre article written in a bubble

    I'm usually a fan of Matt's articles, but this one seems to have been written in a weird bubble where facebook and twitter matter to people's work.

    In the real world, the only people who need this info are in the press office / media team. The other 95% of the work force have NO need for facebook/twitter/other social media stuff for their work.

    Honestly, what weird bubble was this written in?

    There are Knowledge Management issues within even medium sized organisations on how employees generate, share and find information, but I'm pretty sure that it has nothing to do with social media (though I accept that technical solutions and approaches for one may be applicable to the other).

  22. ByeLaw101

    It's an OS... isn't it?

    "I'm beginning to wonder if the answer isn't so much for Microsoft to choose between the two, but rather to deeply entwine the two into one product."

    That just sounds awful to me. I think you should keep the demarcation line between OS and Application absolutely clear. Smashing them together will just make a more confusing and bloated OS which could reduce the choice people have.

  23. Christian Berger

    Hmm... depends on your viewpoint

    If you see Windows as a legacy system to run your old Office VBA applications you so foolishly based your infrastructure on in the 1990s then yes, it makes perfect sense.

    If you see Windows as something you want to base new projects on, and you are smart, you would steer away from any kind of office software as far as you can. Then again if you are smart you are unlikely seeing Windows as something to base new projects on.

    So yes, for the market left for Windows it makes sense to include Office.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    It's been done before

    The Windows version would be a seamless, end-to-end user experience that doesn't distinguish between the operating system and the essential apps that it runs.

    An OS and an office suite integrated...

    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of the Amstrad PCW16!

    And just like Windows 8 Metro / "Modern UI", it runs one application full screen at a time!

  25. annodomini2

    Fundamental issue

    Office is a major money spinner for MS, while this may not last forever, they would never give up a major revenue stream just to satisfy someone's social media fantasy.

    And as has been stated, various governments competition/monopolies commissions would be very quickly jumping down on this even if MS wanted to do it.

  26. Jon Press

    The problem with Office...

    OK, *one* of the problems of Office, is that there's insufficient structure and metadata as it is. Want to label a particular paragraph in a document for future reuse? Can't! Want to find out what the significance of a spreadsheet cell is without looking for some text nearby? Can't! Integrating more unstructured data just makrs this worse. Office sits uncomfortably between a means of presenting data and a means of storing and manipulating it. Plenty of room for products that do only one of things, but better.

    Sorry about spelling - Android has lost its cursor again.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: The problem with Office...

      Well actually it encourages you to interlace data with explanations which makes it incredibly hard to do anything useful with said data.

      Also it's hard to get to the data. At best you can parse some XML, at worst you'll need to write some VBA to get the data out.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Please let me know in the comments

    Web2.0 article: commenters are supposed to provide the content.

    Open and Shut appears three times a week? No wonder I don't always manage to avoid it.

    (Oddly, there was a typo in the previous line. My fingers often stray to adjacent keys. Yes, it really was a typo, and yes, it made me giggle knowingly, but no, I didn't expect it to pass the moderators, so I corrected it. However, I now have my own version of the Assay-articles header.)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Merging IE and Windows....

    ..worked out soooo well for Microsoft, didn't it! ? Didn't it? Aw come on ... I mean ... I don't think they've paid the fine yet .. haven't they?

  29. Dire Criti¢

    From our correspondent over in Springfield...

    Worst. Idea. Ever.

  30. James Gosling

    Here are some suggestions that would surely get Ballmer mad...

    1.) Release a linux version of Office

    2.) Make Office Open Source

    3.) If it must be closed source, at least reduce the price certainly to under £100 ideally less than £50

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Here are some suggestions that would surely get Ballmer mad...

      They'd release a Linux version if people would buy it - they have Mac Office but that's as far down the unpopular OS route as they want to go. Why bother writing Office for Linux when hardly anybody uses it as their primary desktop OS and Linux users are all freeloaders anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linux version if people would buy it

        No they would not, as they see it as a leaver to sell Windows.

        Do you really think all those business executives with iOS based iPads are not ready to pay for Office? So why are we not seeing MS offer Office for the iPad?

        1. Jonathan 29

          Re: Linux version if people would buy it

          Because they are living in the past and they would rather lose millions in revenue than admit it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here are some suggestions that would surely get Ballmer mad...

        "Why bother writing Office for Linux when hardly anybody uses it as their primary desktop OS"

        Maybe because more people want Office than want Windows !

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Should Microsoft merge Office into Windows?

    They should drop the whole office suite and start contributing to LibreOffice ;)

  32. Irongut Silver badge

    The last thing we need

    is integration of Office with social networks.

    I just hope no one from MS sees this article and thinks it is a good idea.

  33. AQ42

    They tried before!

    If you go back to Outlook 97 they tried to do just that. Outlook then not only did email and calendaring but also provided you with a way into the file system, and had a journal which recorded what you did. It didn't have much from outside, but way back then there was no social networking to speak of. But over time the file system access was removed and the other features downplayed.

  34. Mikel

    Office for Linux?

    Putting your data in Office is like gifting it to Microsoft and renting it back.

  35. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Matt, buddy, I have nothing but piles of respect for you...but there is something about your statements I feel I must question.

    Put simply: if I can do it on my notebook, it bloody merry hell isn't Big Data. I'd go so far as to say that if I can do it on my corporate budget then it isn't Big Data.

    Big Data != Analytics. Big Data = "massively complex analytics done against enormous datasets beyond the range of traditional tools such as Excel and SQL." This makes "what constitutes Big Data" a moving target as technology evolves, but puts it firmly into the realm of "shit Office will never do without offloading 99.9999999999999% of the work to Azure/Amazon."

    If I can crunch the numbers on a single machine, this isn't Big Data. It is – at best – analytics. At worst, it's indexing. Please, please don't champion the descent into utter irrelevance of the term "Big Data."

    We saw it with cloud computing already; "a cloud" was originally synonymous with "self-healing architecture that had massive redundancies, the ability to spin up systems on demand, user portals for doing so" and more besides. In the past two years it has devolved to be completely synonymous with "virtualisation that isn't ESXi Free."

    If we degrade the term "Big Data" as in "solving Big problems that are massively compute intensive against enormous data sets" to be cognate with either "analytics," "indexing," or "automated semantic tagging" then we deprive ourselves of a term to describe the actual Big Data problems that real organisations are increasingly facing.

    Can I instead offer a solution that meets halfway? How about "Baby Data?" This term could be wielded to mean "applying COTS Big Data techniques to miniscule data sets." It maintains what I believe to be an important distinction between "things requiring a hadoop cluster and a minimum of $500,000 worth of gear" and "shit you can do on an Intel Atom." It also provides a distinction between the more traditional analytics, indexing and semantic tagging that don't quite cover the techniques used in Big Data.

    So…Baby Data? Can we live with this?

    Thanks much for your time, sir,

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