The cost, complexity and processor drain of Microsoft's Office on a humble netbook ruled that out from the start, and the old-fashioned menu-driven charm of OpenOffice has many of the same problems even if it costs no more than a decent-sized download to fire up.
Online word processors and spreadsheets always look under-dressed until it dawns that most of the clothing of the modern Office program is irrelevant to everyday tasks, especially on the move. What you get in browser-based mini-programs such as Adobe's clean and generally excellent Buzzword is simplicity, and the ability to return to work 'in medias res' from any PC, at any time, from anywhere. It just sits there, waiting pregantly for its creator to return.
It is a concept so transparent that after a while you forget you are even using an application in the conventional sense at all.
Why carry files around on a laptop and then have to work out which PCs or drives to synch them with? Why synch at all? In the online app world, there is no syncing because the files are just there with a multi-platform WYSIWYG allure that would have looked like a substance-induced hallucination barely five years ago.
All this contrasts favourably with the old model, as it shall henceforth be known, of firing up a PC, loading a specific and hugely over-engineered application which probably cost £150, to create simple documents and notes. A program such as Buzzword needs only a browser, an account and login, and no training whatsoever. Documents can be exported to a range of mainstream formats if such a thing is ever needed, and it even saves multiple revisions.
There is even talk of an offline stub built on on Adobe's AIR, which would allow the user to compose while not connected to the Internet (it does happen), synching transparently when the connection returns. That would be useful.
Aside from the very occasional need for more complex word processor and spreadsheet features, it's hard to see why the consumer will want to continue paying over the odds for suites such as Office at all. Even then, some of those could, in principle, be offered by an online app, so even that doesn't count as a convincing USP
Perhaps it's all about habit, what people are used to doing, how things have been done in the past. Then again, the ideas of small, simple laptops where battery life was more important than pure processing power once looked like a small niche.
About the only psychological hurdle is security, the
feeling that other people are only a login away from your documents,
but you could raise the same objection to all online services.
Microsoft has its own version of this world, but I can't see that it has any interest in seeing it take off too quickly. Better keep us tied to the apron strings of complexity, especially business users.
I would urge everyone to try Buzzword, or one of the range of similar online apps out there. To me, they look like a version of the future with much to commend it.
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