Sam Hiser wrote up some of the punchier bits from last week’s Berkman Center ODF meeting, and they brought the car analogy back to mind; it had only come to me on the spot there in the room. The problem is that there hasn’t been a significantly useful new feature in any office suite that I’ve bought in the last decade. I just sat here and stared blankly, and honestly can’t think of a word-processor or spreadsheet feature I use today that wasn’t there in 1995. So, is office software essentially, complete, done; is the era of innovation over? I don’t think so; consider another technology that’s over 100 years old: the automobile. In that same decade, we’ve bought three; the upgrade cycles for cars and office software are about the same. Each of those cars had clever, useful, new gadgets and features that I would never have been smart enough to think of. Imagine that: A compass in the rear-view mirror! A volume control on the steering wheel! A little slide-out doohickey for your cellphone! A sixth gear! A special defrost-the-windshield-and-mirrors control! What’s the difference between cars and office software? Well, every time I go shopping for a car I look at a bunch of different vendors who are trying really hard to get ahead of each other and earn my business. And since everything about a car (and the roads they drive on) is standards-based, there’s absolutely no penalty whatsoever for switching vendors.

author · Dad
colophon · rights
picture of the day
November 03, 2005
· Technology (89 more)

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