Is there a difference between Office "the platform" and Office "the document editor"?

As Gabe and I have been writing our DaaS book, we've been talking quite a bit about the Windows desktop applications that companies need.

As Gabe and I have been writing our DaaS book, we've been talking quite a bit about the Windows desktop applications that companies need. Microsoft Office is usually on the top of that list—especially when it comes to enterprises. The reason enterprises need "real" Microsoft Office is because they typically have add-ins and VBAs and workflows built around the Windows versions of the Office suite. So even if alternate office suites like Google docs offer the all the "Office-like" functionality that the majority of users need, enterprises can't switch over since they still need real Office for so much stuff.

But I've been wondering: Is it time to mentally divide our understanding of Microsoft Office into the "platform" (that's used for our VBAs and add-ins and workflows) and the "office document editor" we use to edit documents and spreadsheets?

Dividing these roles would allow us to deploy more modern office suites like Google Docs for the majority of document creation and editing while still using real Microsoft Office as the platform for the enterprise apps when needed.

I'm sort of thinking out loud here and wondering whether this would work? It seems simple on one hand, but on the other it might be confusing because then some users would have two "Word-like," environments—Microsoft Word for some situations and Google Docs for the other. I would imagine that would be confusing for users? Then again, there are still tons of scenarios where enterprises deploy one browser for access to certain enterprise apps and another browser for general web surfing, and a "split" office suite doesn't seem like it's too different?

Of course if you go to all the trouble to deploy real Microsoft Office, then why not just use that for everything? Though again, Google Docs is better on iPads and phones than real Office deployed via remote Windows, so I don't know...

And what about Office 365 and Office Web Apps? It seems that maybe those are the best of both worlds? You can get basic functionality for the Office suite from a browser and then get full VBA support if your'e running the full version of Office on Windows? (Then again, the web version of those apps only let you view Office documents in a read only way, so I don't know if that's actually useful or not?)

Really I guess I'm posing this question to you: From an enterprise standpoint, how important is Office "the platform?" I assume you can't just switch willy-nilly to Google Docs for everything, but could you switch for the majority of document work and then use real Office as a platform (ROaaP?) for the specific stuff that needs it? Or is that just adding complexity that doesn't really solve anything?


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I'm pretty sure that Office365 Office Web App and Office Web App server aren't the same, there are features available on Office365 using the web app that aren't part of the Office Web App server. Someone from Microsoft could probably clarify this further. My assumption is features probably first show up in Office365 web app and then get integrated into the downloadable offering.

Both of those solutions (Office365 web app and Office Web App server) do allow editing, it definitely isn't just read-only.

In my experience Office is the platform, it's difficult to get a large enterprise to move off that. Small business can make things work using Google Docs but I have seen very few instances of this in accounts with 500+ users.

Fidelity of office documents is difficult to match with other platforms. Future integration with RMS will make it a compelling platform for security purposes too.

Office Web Apps are only an online option and offline is still a requirement for many...further complicating the decision and tools.


Ah right, I didn't put it together that Web Apps and Web O365 were different. Makes sense though.

For read-only, I meant from web via iOS and Android. So far for me they're read only? i.e. to edit you need a desktop browser.


Web Apps (via SharePoint) allows you to edit documents.

I've also just opened a document on my iPad via Skydrive and can edit that.


Sorry I meant to say Web Apps allows you to edit documents on an iPad.