2007 looking back

Big year 2007, lots of important stuff happened.
EVO – the wow starts now! except it seems to have been the owww starts now.

Vista was released to much fanfare just too late for Christmas. It got a mixed reception, including plenty of moans about poor device support and intrusive ‘security’ features. The main issue keeping people away seems to be a lack of compelling features to justify the move. With the carrot approach failing MS could have invoked the stick by end of lining XP on time, but they wisely extended the lifetime. SP1 is due soon, although how well it will address these concerns remains to be seen.

Office 2007 was also released to the same mixed reception. Lack of compelling features and concerns about the incompatible interface have slowed adoption. SP1 was released earlier than expected, but has so far failed to allay peoples performance concerns in Excel. Excel 2007 actually has some pretty attractive features but for most they seem outweighed by the negatives of the ribbon – which penalises users in direct proportion to their experience with previous versions.

A new version of the Excel SDK was also released (the first update since Excel 97) which allows access to many of the new features of Excel 2007, and shows continued support for C/C++ add-ins for Excel.

Sharepoint 2007 seems to have been well received, indeed most chatter on the server elements of Office 2007 seems to have been positive.

The E part of EVO, Exchange I know nothing about so couldn’t comment.

2007 saw a lot of file format noise as MS tried to get OOXML ratified as a standard. Expect this to drown out a lot of more interesting content when it comes back up in February. With the Dutch government (and others) beginning to insist on open standards based software its clear to see there is a lot at stake here.

Visual Studio 2008 sneaked out early, and includes VSTO in the box – this is a major improvement from 2005. Both from a technical POV (VSTO2008 is actually deployable) and a packaging POV. Having it as a core part of VS will surely help uptake, and maybe breathe new life into the ‘Smart client’ idea which seems to have gone quiet recently. Also of note is a renewed interest in C++ with MFC for Vista and improved standards compliance.

The MacBU released Office 2008 for Macs, with its new ‘lack of VBA’ feature, its not expected to sparkle in the uptake stakes. Although concerns of the implications for VBA in Windows seems to have been overstated.

Non Microsoft

OpenOffice.org stepped up their VBA support and a fair amount of VBA runs fine in 2.3 or better. At this stage it is probably a bit early to suggest your VBA assets may be safer under OOo, but its a trend that may be worth watching.

In the spreadsheet quality world the SOX influence seems to have calmed, whether that means everyone is in compliance or they gave up trying will probably become apparent in due course.

Mac OS X seemed to get a more positive response than Vista, but it could be argued that Apple has a larger more vocal fanboi contingent. Macs also experienced a few significant malware attacks, perhaps demonstrating that their market share has improved so much even the bad guys are taking note.

A major 2007 development was the availability of PCs with Linux pre-installed from big name vendors (Dell). And the massive success of the Asus Eee with its custom Linux install. You get a decent OS, full OpenOffice, Firefox, and Thunderbird (and a ton of other stuff) and a subnotebook to run it all on for 200 quid. To put that in perspective its less than the retail cost of the non basic version of Vista, or the non basic version of Office, for a fully featured PC.

The march to the web continued with Google docs, Office Live, and a load of others. Someone somewhere must need all this collaboration stuff, but its not anyone I know in the spreadsheet development world.

VMWare made a big market impact at IPO, bringing virtual machine technology to the attention of a whole bunch of new people. Its hard to compete with free though which is how much Virtual PC 2007 from Microsoft costs.

Non PC

The Nintendo Wii (in stock for 2 hours recently at a local shop) has proven a hit even though its graphics are considered less than leading edge.

Apple iPods got an update and the iPhone demonstrated the differences in the US v UK mobile phone markets.

There was plenty of hot air in the Web apps world in 2007 with strong signs of a full on Web 2.0 bubble.

Do you agree or disagree?
What have I missed that you think was important?
2008 predictions coming up soon.

6 Responses to “2007 looking back”

  1. Marcus Says:

    Hi Simon,

    Interesting piece. We both responded to a query about the future of VBA on Excel-L this week regarding the longegivity of VBA work.

    A couple of the jigsaw pieces in this blog were particularly interesting. OpenOffice.org’s improved VBA support and the Dutch government’s endorsement of open standards. Could we see ABN Amro migrating their Excel apps to OpenOffice is a couple of years?

    I’m still suspect of the 20 year VBA timeline. I’ve seen hundreds of Excel VBA solutions wiped away with a single implementation of Algorythmics. IF push came to shove and large organisations ‘had’ to migrate, how quickly could they do it? 5 years? I’m speculating of course (and wildly at that).

    Have an enjoyable Christmas and New Year,

    All the best – Marcus

  2. Simon Says:

    I reckon 2020 thats 10-12 yrs for VBA.
    OOo VBA is a big thing. Do you keep MS Office and migrate code to VSTO/A/other? Or do you keep VBA and migrate Office to OOo?
    One of those gives you open standards for free. And operating system choice!
    Its great the OOo are giving us those choices.
    How many will take them up I don’t know. How many would need to before MS sit up and invest in VBA I don’t know either.

  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    Wouldn’t MSFT have believed that creating VSTA was the appropriate investment in VBA?

    Cynical me, I don’t believe the real MSFT decision makers care much for any of the Office applications separately. Anything that would make Excel a better spreadsheet/development platform BUT would require Excel to be less like the other Office applications is unlikely to happen. The future is in plain sight: Excel Services, SharePoint, connections to business intelligence systems. Not Excel itself. For developers, Excel is becoming an overly large grid control.

    I’d bet we won’t see another increase in the worksheet grid size any time soon. New tables are useful, but structured referencing isn’t as capable as it should be. Besides that, the new worksheet functions introduced in Excel 12 are underwhelming. SUMIFS and COUNTIFS (and AVERAGEIF[S]) are crude: they only handle AND criteria, not OR criteria. IFERROR is the only really useful new function.

    When are we ever going to get a function that concatenates all cells in a range? When are we going to get search or lookup functions that search from right to left, bottom to top or for a specified match number? When are we going to get worksheet functions that can return formatting information like XLM’s GET.CELL function? Or, more to the point, when will the informational XLM functions become regular worksheet functions?

    In a different vein, when will we get functions to calculate eigenvalues and eigenvectors? Any matrix decomposition functions? Even prime number functions like what Gnumeric has provided for years? How about something really basic: a function to return a cell reference’s parent worksheet’s name rather than having to parse it from =CELL(“Filename”,rangeref), and then only in saved files?

    At this time I believe MSFT has given up on Excel itself. I’ll be happy to admit I’m wrong when & if they expand structured referencing to make it possible to filter by formula and add some other long-needed functions. That is, adding useful formula syntax and built-in functions is my measure of how seriously MSFT takes Excel. Adding more menu commands just doesn’t cut it for me.

  4. Martin Rushton Says:

    Discussions at the UK user conference suggest you are wrong on the future extension of the Excel grid. It is thought to be coming soon (15?. Something to do with 64 bit means though that they may have to drop the A1 notation and just stick with numbered columns. 4 lettered column labels might need censoring ;-)

    The consensus was that while extending beyond “IV” was helpful it probably ceased to be useful beyond the 400th column which would allow a full year plus some label and analysis columns across. Also why so many rows? If anybody is using that many then they are almost certainly using the worksheet as a database table which is better hosted…………

  5. Harlan Grove Says:

    While I couldn’t stand the UI, WingZ had the bright idea of providing a default 32K by 32K grid which could be reconfigured to more/less rows/columns as long as the resulting grid didn’t exceed 2^30 cells. Quattro Pro from version 9 on provided something similar for .QPW files. Maybe MSFT could consider providing the same sort of functionality, i.e., letting users decide their preferred grid size within a reasonably accommodating limit (2^30 > 10^9).

    512 columns would have made more sense and would only require 2-letter column labels. As for naughty words, ain’t that already the case with column 1189?

  6. Stephane Rodriguez Says:

    In fact, as I found when I reverse engineered BIFF12, the reason why we are still talking about fix number of columns and fix number of rows is because Microsoft chose to stick with static row and static column encodings, instead of going for the better variable encoding.
    It is ironic because BIFF12 actually departs from BIFF11 and older BIFF formats in that records use variable length encoding and variable id encoding. And yet, Microsoft chose not to do that as well for something as fundamental as rows and columns.
    I wish they had spent more time on that. This discussion we have would be obsolete now, and the grid would be in full control of the spreadsheet user, something I think is not too much to ask, is it?

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