Adobe Buzzword: It's the Mac vs MS-DOS Debate All Over Again
In RIA-zation of Office Tools, I suggested that we (the people) were ready for a new breed of online Office tools based on RIA principles:
- Instant engagement: no setup required, get started right away
- Rich and expressive interfaces: get productive quickly and stay focused on your work, not the tool
- Access files from anywhere regardless of equipment, operating system or context
- Peace of mind for all things related to backups, viruses or security
There are a few contenders in the market including Google Docs, Zoho Writer, Writeboard, Thinkfree and many others. Microsoft recently announced an online extension to MS Word, but it does not qualify as an RIA because it nonetheless requires the installation of MS Word on the client side.
The buzz last week was Adobe's entry in the online word processor market with Buzzword.
If you are wondering how much one can innovate with a glorified online typewriter, you should take a look at Buzzword. It features a tidy user interface, provides advanced functionality through progressive disclosure (e.g. tables, images, comments are not in-your-face as you open the application but can be revealed in the same workspace and context) and delivers a simple way to get to a gratifying level of productivity fast.
Obviously, with so much emphasis on simplicity, Buzzword is not as powerful a word processor as many seasoned users would have expected. But this whole debate makes me relive the MS-DOS vs Mac crossfire I got stuck in 20 years ago. MS-DOS was the powerful and highly configurable environment that you must have worked hard to tame, whereas Mac was the completely sanitated and sealed environment that empowered the lazier audiences. Ultimately, this fueled religious debates (and witty essays such as Umberto Eco's) with no clear conclusion: both approaches were very valid and appropriate to their respective audiences.
With the introduction of Buzzword, Adobe demonstrated that it was thinking differentand that we are not through with heated debates about which approach to favor.