Microsoft to move Office apps to "the cloud"

And why I won't be using them.

By Cyrus Farivar
Published October 30, 2008 2:42PM (EDT)

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that it would be moving its Office suite of applications -- you know, Word, PowerPoint and Excel -- to the Web. This is part of a larger trend of tech companies moving stuff off individual computers and onto what's known in the industry as "the cloud," which is just a fancy way of saying that the programs exist online. With ubiquitous connectivity via laptops and mobile phones, all of that data becomes accessible all the time. Google Docs and all of its related applications (Reader, Gmail, etc.) are obviously cloud-based, as is Apple's Mobile Me syncing system.

While it's pretty clear how this is useful in a business-type situation, I don't think I'll be transitioning to using entirely Web-based apps anytime soon. Heck, even with Gmail around, I still prefer to download my e-mail the old-fashioned way, using a POP3 mail client (I roll with Thunderbird). And I'll keep doing my writing in a similar fashion, pounding out my words on a no-frills text editor to just get my words out onto the page, and in Microsoft Word for serious formatting, line editing and spell checking.

The thing about using offline programs that don't require a network connection to maintain is that they're responsive and easy to use. I can be anywhere and draft an e-mail, just like I can be anywhere and put words to a screen. I don't have to worry about whether other people on the network I'm using are hogging all the bandwidth by downloading BitTorrent files. Even in the age of Internet access from just about every corner of the country, not to mention the globe (I'm blogging this week from a rural village in Corsica), there are still places and moments when you have a slow connection at best, or none at all. Using Gmail on a slow connection is simply painful. Trying to edit a large document in a similar environment will be too.

Further, your computer (or heck, your iPhone) has much more power -- because there's only one person using it at a time (you) -- than any cloud-based service ever will. The response time between my keyboard and my text editor will always be faster than the response time between my keyboard, Google Docs and its servers and then back to my eyeballs.

Plus, I want control of my data, e-mails and documents alike. I want to be responsible for them, and despite Google's best intentions, don't want my messages subject to subpoena. My e-mails stay on my computer, and I'm the only one who has access to it, and that's just how I like it.

Cyrus Farivar

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