I read the exciting announcement today, by Facebook CEO, that Microsoft and Facebook are collaborating to host docs.com, an online document sharing platform based on Microsoft Office 2010.
For nearly a year, Microsoft has been testing the concept of putting Microsoft Office on the Internet with the Office Online initiative. Office Online was based based on Microsoft Office 2010 whose desktop versions were scheduled for release in early to Middle 2010. But all along, I wasn't sure how quickly or how well the Office in the cloud concept would catch on. Again, I didn't know how the platform would work for persons that don't have Office installed locally. The little I remember of the beta product, it was like it still uses rendering engines available on your local machine from the Office mother ship, which sort of limited its appeal as a cloud-based document platform like Google docs.
Now, this announcement of docs.com with its deep Facebook integration is really a good thing for Microsoft. First, it launches an Office alternative on a generic, distributed platform and second, it logs right into the FaceWitter (facebook+twitter) mentality of our day. I hope it works out for Microsoft and for Facebook. If it does, the Facebook platform will change drastically into a collaborative platform for productivity not just for fun and games.
I see a few huddles, though: The current docs.com website is a Silverlight site. The controls that render those Office docs are Silverlight controls. This can be a problem for mobile system users on non-Flash, non-Silverlight platforms. Lots of Facebook users are on the move and casual. Many of them use mobile phone apps to connect to Facebook and a significant number of these don't have Flash or Silverlight. Notable among these are the iPhone and iPad.
In a previous post, I spoke about how disappointed I was that Microsoft did not release iPad apps for Microsoft Office. With this new move towards docs.com, it's perfectly possible to use docs.com on the iPad just as easily as using it on the desktop. The only catch is that the iPad does not support Silverlight, which the docs.com site requires. I think that docs.com can really fly well on the wings of the iPad but Microsoft will have to think seriously about supporting the iPad. To do this, they would have to create an iPad compatible HTML5 version of docs.com in the minimum or just go on and show some leadership with this new emerging web standard altogether.
So, hello, docs.com! What do you have for the modern user?