Bringing Office to the browser: story time with Steven Sinofsky

Kip Kniskern

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for this, Steven Sinofsky is telling war stories. This morning, the former Windows President and prolific writer and tweeter let loose a 25 tweet barrage centered on Office, and the thought process behind its eventual release as a suite of web apps. The tweetstorm opens the curtain a bit to at first set the stage (Office was big business in 2000, but it was only just becoming entrenched as a business tool, and still had at least some competition from the likes of Lotus, Borland, and Open Office).

But change, and more competition was coming, and Sinofsky describes the internal battles between using Java to “componentize” Office into a series of applets. There were good reasons to consider this approach:

However, Sinofsky’s team had “had tried to build components with “OLE” and tried the whole “edit a document made up of parts” approach it was a total failure.” There was another approach.

The Exchange team had already been taking browser based email to a new level (this is in the early 2000s, remember), and despite the “bigly risk,” and perhaps helped by some pushback from the IE team, Office “needed a bet on the core value of Office,” based on a classic idea: “if something was to replace Office we would build it ourselves.”

He then sums up, that despite Office Web Apps Google Docs, still a “vast majority of people experience productivity through desktop Office.”

Steven Sinofsky is always an interesting read, and we’re excited that he’s begun to tell stories about his time at Microsoft. Should be an interesting ride!